Key West city commissioners on Tuesday denied a scaled-back plan to expand seating at a popular Petronia Street restaurant.
Le Crepreie, housed in a newly built building owned by Jim and Nancy Marsh, reopened at 300 Petronia St. and has since drawn a neighborhood and tourist following.
As approved, the building plan allowed for 14 seats in the 900-square-foot restaurant; the other 900 square feet of the ground floor were originally intended for a retail business, but now the Marshes want to add 24 additional seats.
That's changed from a previously denied request to expand to 58 seats. Commissioners, siding with neighbors' objections to a lack of parking, denied the second request in as many months.
Commissioner Clayton Lopez, who represents that Bahama Village neighborhood, made clear that once future development at the nearby Truman Waterfront property (including more parking on Fort Street) is underway, the item could be reconsidered.
"When the development in the Fort Street area is begun," Lopez said, "then I would have no problem in reconsidering or supporting the request. But as it stands now, with all of the problems standing and the congestion in the area, I can't support a greater number of seats."
"I'm not sure when we get to the point where we stop making these exceptions," Commissioner Teri Johnston said.
"It seems to me that is part of doing business -- taking care of the neighborhood. You have to come up with a solution as to how to alleviate parking."
"We need to protect our neighborhoods," Commissioner Jimmy Weekley said. "I think we can look at the sins of the past at what we've done in other neighborhoods. We have an opportunity here to not let that happen."
Project land-use consultant Owen Trepanier stressed the point that commissioners not permanently fix a number of seats for the building and allow change with shifting "economic pressures."
"Is Petronia becoming a boutique, cafe and restaurant area?" he said. "It is. The real question here is what is the appropriate number of seats for this property? I would just ask you to not bind this property into a fixed status for the rest of its life."
Also on Tuesday, commissioners, with no discussion or public comment, unanimously passed the second reading of an ordinance putting a 180-day moratorium on new scooter and electric-car rentals.
The idea is to put a halt to new vehicle rentals that add to downtown congestion to give the city the chance to perform a comprehensive traffic study for planning purposes.
Discussion of a possible moratorium came on the heels of the city issuing a sightseeing franchise to City View Trolleys, a Boston-based company trying to jump into the Key West market, previously occupied only by Historic Tours of America.