Paradise Tropical Restaurant & Bar is looking to resurrect its case for outdoor music with Camden County Planning & Zoning (P&Z).
On May 15, the Camden County Planning Commission denied a proposed conditional use permit (CUP) that would have allowed the lakefront establishment to have outdoor music with an acoustic privacy wall for noise abatement. The permit went down in a tie vote with four commissioners voting for the permit and four against. Three commissioners were absent from the meeting.
While the Camden County Commission has final vote on rezoning cases, the planning commission decides CUPs.
The case, however, is coming back before the planning commission Wednesday, June 19.
Paradise owner George Tucker and attorney Greg Williams have requested a reexamination procedure of the CUP allowable under Article 10 of the Unified Land Use Code bylaws, according to Administrator Don Hathaway.
Because CUPs and planned use developments can be complex applications, says Hathaway, the bylaws allow an applicant to request a reexamination within 30 days of the denial. The applicant must be able to present additional information or a modification of the proposal.
The reexamination will allow Paradise the opportunity to ask the planning commission to consider the new information or an alternate option without going through the entire process over again.
The reexamination procedure does not include a public hearing, and so does not require the same legal notifications of a hearing. According to Hathaway, Williams requested the reexamination scenario May 15 almost immediately after the CUP was denied.
Paradise representatives will have the opportunity to present the general concept of the new information. For the reexamination to then go forward, just one of the planning commissioners who voted against the CUP must request to reopen the case. The planning commission will then discuss the case and may get further detail from the applicant.
Because the procedure does not include a public hearing, testimony will only be taken at the request of commissioners.
A contingent of homeowners in the area around Paradise came out against the CUP and testified at the public hearing April 17 and at the P&Z meeting May 15 where planning commissioners further questioned the applicant and residents. The homeowners complained about noise from the business disturbing the peace and in some cases causing the walls of their residences to vibrate.
These homeowners have said they will not be satisfied until the music is enclosed and do not believe that the acoustic privacy walls would be sufficient to block the noise and protect their property values. According to a certified appraisal paid for by resident Richard Danowsky, outdoor music — regardless of decibel level — has decreased the property values of nearby residences by approximately 20 percent.
Page 2 of 2 - Since the planning commission denied the CUP May 15, the county has received one emailed complaint about Paradise from nearby residents Del and Karen Moore.
"On Friday, May 17, 2013, only two days after the Paradise Tropical Restaurant's request for a CUP was voted down, the restaurant cranked up their recorded music extremely loud in apparent retaliation," the email, dated May 31, states.
The Moores claimed that while Paradise did not have a live band that evening they had recorded music "blaring at unbelievably high volumes."
Since May 17, the Moores said Paradise has continued to have loud outside live music.
Paradise has been at the center of public controversy this spring after Danowsky filed suit in Camden County Circuit Court to stop outdoor music at the Sunrise Beach area business. The lawsuit claimed that Paradise has been in violation of the Lake District Unified Land Use Code by playing outdoor music in B-1 commercial zoning. The suit sought a permanent injunction against the outdoor music to enforce the county's regulations because it claimed the county was failing to prevent zoning violations.
Under previous P&Z administration, Paradise was sent a notice of violation by then-administrator Chris Hall and notices from P&Z attorney Ryan Harding. Under current administrator Don Hathaway, there have been two notices of violation sent to Paradise. These notices occurred over a three-year period.
The lawsuit has not been settled, and the trial date has been delayed.
Hathaway has said the county is following procedures to try to rectify a non-conforming use with the options that are available.
In testimony before the planning commission, Williams has said that the administrative interpretation of outdoor music in B-1 zoning changed with a change in the administration of P&Z and that Paradise has been operating under the impression that the 2009/10 expansion and subsequent outdoor music was allowed under the code. Williams has also claimed that the older part of the restaurant should be grandfathered for outdoor music. Williams said it is a non-conforming pre-existing use because the former owner had outdoor music prior to the implementation of P&Z in 2004.
Opposing longtime homeowners have denied that outdoor music was played at Paradise before Tucker Investments purchased it in 2007.
Planning commission chair Jerry Carroll — who was on the board at the time of a 2007 rezoning case at this location — has said it was made clear at the time of the original case that outdoor music was not permissable at the business without a CUP.