Tarpon OKs extra parking for Ballyhoo employees
TARPON SPRINGS - It is not what its management originally requested, but Ballyhoo Grill is in line to receive a little extra parking space. Tarpon Springs city commissioners unanimously approved a conditional use calling for the construction of a 21-space parking lot just to the east of the restaurant. The plan commissioners approved is a scaled-down version of what Ballyhoo representatives initially requested late last year. The previous site plan called for 69 parking spaces, said Planning and Zoning Director Renea Vincent and was subsequently rejected at a Planning and Zoning Board meeting in December. The parking lot’s location puts it across from Anclote River Crossings, a 36-unit townhouse complex, and some of its residents were opposed. Following the initial rejection, Ballyhoo came back with an amended site plan that limited the lot’s size and worked with city staff to put it in compliance with the land development code.The approved parking lot will include a “screen wall” that is 6 feet tall along its northern and eastern sides that face the townhomes. In addition, there will be landscaping for aesthetic purposes. The remaining perimeter will be enclosed by a 3 1/2-foot-tall fence. Along with the smaller size, another key element to the lot’s conditional use approval is the stipulation that it be for Ballyhoo employees only. Before the vote on the revised plan, Commissioner Susan Slattery moved approval on the condition that signs are erected at the lot specifying employee-only parking. Even with the changes, some Anclote River Crossings residents still held concerns about the parking lot’s placement. Commissioner David Banther, a resident of Anclote River Crossings, said although a parking lot there isn’t ideal, the new, smaller site plan is acceptable. “I don’t want to see a parking lot there outside my front door,” Banther said. “But what else could be there could be a lot worse.” The revised plan was a good compromise, he said. Ballyhoo opened near the corner of Pinellas Avenue and Dodecanese Boulevard in the 1990s, but its original owner, Chris Fragale, later sold the property. Prior to Ballyhoo’s resurrection this past September, it had been most recently operated as a Crabby Bill’s. Ballyhoo’s management said the extra parking is a business necessity. Fragale, now the restaurant’s general manager, described the supplemental parking as “essential” and that the business will eventually fail without it. Ballyhoo shares its current on-site parking lot with Narcosis Scuba Center. Given its location on the eastern end of the Sponge Docks tourist district, Fragale said, the lot is often nearly full before the restaurant opens for business. He often sees potential customers pull into the lot, notice it is full and then leave, he said. “I’m committed to getting Ballyhoo back to where it used to be,” Fragale said. “There’s just not enough volume there now and a lot of it has to do with the parking.” Mayor David Archie said approval of the revised plan was an example of how businesses and residents must compromise. It wasn’t long ago that the city granted land-use changes required to construct the Anclote River Crossings townhouses, Archie said. At the time, there were residents who thought allowing townhouses to be built along the river was irresponsible, he said.