Gulfport City Council approved a measure Tuesday November 1 that will allow them to consider a drive- through window for a Dunkin’ Donuts seeking to set up shop on Gulfport Boulevard.
Although the proposal had generated some controversy in the community, ordinance 2016-08 passed with few fireworks at its second reading.
Poul and April Hornsleth of R.W. Caldwell Realty & Insurance have proposed a Dunkin’ Donuts on two lots they own on the south-west corner of 56th Street S. and Gulfport Blvd. S. While the business itself would be allowed under previously existing zoning, a drive-through would not.
The new measure only opens the possibility of allowing drive-through in that area on a case-by-case basis. Council also approved a companion ordinance amendment, No. 2016-09, that would set standards for drive-through facilities.
Most of the seats in the council chambers were occupied Tuesday, but only a handful of people approached the microphone to express their thoughts on this issue.
One concern: that allowing more chain stores threatens Gulfport’s homegrown character and that the city needs to decide what image it wants to project and establish guidelines to enforce it.
“I haven’t seen a meeting about what we want Gulfport Boulevard to look like,” resident April Thanos told the council. She said the city needs a vision for the entire street, noting that it’s the first thing many visitors see when they enter Gulfport. “Right now I don’t think it represents us well.”
Others noted the Dunkin’ Donuts’ potential for generating increased noise, traffic and light on an already busy roadway, and adverse effects on those living on 56th Street, which is currently residential.
During the discussion officials noted that zoning rules are already in place that allow the city to protect its character. In particular, Mayor Sam Henderson noted that businesses trying to establish themselves in Gulfport have complained that the city makes it difficult for them to do so.
Henderson asked City Manager Jim O’Reilly to draw up guidelines on what the city can do to protect what people consider its character for discussion early next year.
The Dunkin’ Donuts and any drive-through are still far from being a reality. The next step would be for the applicants to seek conditional use and site plan approvals from the city.
Gulfport Gets a Boat Show
Council approved an application to hold a three-day boat show and Formula One boat race on Boca Ciega Bay to benefit the Michael J. Yakes Foundation and PARC. The event will be held Friday April 28 through Sunday April 30 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The event will be free and open to the public, and only food vendors from Gulfport will be allowed.
The largest event of its kind ever held in the city, it will require the closing of parts of Shore Boulevard and 31st Avenue S. and is expected to draw around 30,000 people over the three-day period. The 17-foot boats will race in a roughly circular track off Gulfport Beach.
In response to questions from the council, the applicants, Tim Seebold and William Joule, said all measures would be taken to protect manatees and sea grasses.
Meanwhile, Joe Guenther of O’Maddy’s restaurant assured the council that all but one of the 13 businesses that would be affected by the road closings had approved the event, with the 13th business owner being out of town. He said it would be beneficial for local businesses at a time when the winter season has just ended.
During his comment period, Vice Mayor Michael Fridovich lamented that while Gulfport has many good events, a lot of residents don’t attend. He mentioned the poor attendance at the October 22 jazz festival on the waterfront and the fact that the Catherine Hickman Theater was only half full during an October 27 candidates forum.
“It was embarrassing,” he said. “I hope they show up for the boat show.”
Overheard at the November 1 Gulfport regular council meeting:
“Gulfport Beach Bazaar won for the commercial theme and Mark and Sonya Walling for the residential theme.” – Mayor Sam Henderson announcing the winners of the city’s contest for best Halloween decorations.
“This is the 33rd consecutive year the city has received this prestigious award.” – Cheryl Hannafin, Gulfport’s Finance Director, referring to the Certificate of Achievement in Financial Reporting presented to Gulfport’s Finance Department.
“Thirty-three years. That’s incredible.” – Councilmember Christine Brown
“Now the fun stuff is over. Now everybody is going to get mad.” – Mayor Sam Henderson said as he opened the public comments portion of the council meeting.
“At this point I would say there’s nothing we need to do until we hear.” – City Attorney Andrew Salzman referring to an environmental group’s threat to sue the city over sewer discharges into Boca Ciega Bay.
“This city has done a fine job of informing people … I’ve gotten a little burned out on hearing we’re not doing that. … We do a good job at making that window for you to look through, but we can’t make you look through it.” – Henderson in response to an audience member citing the city of Gulfport’s alleged failure to provide residents with information on important issues. He encouraged residents to inform themselves via city resources such as its website before coming to council meetings.