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    Couple fights to move nail salon

    But the city's planning board says the business doesn't fit in with the industrial area to which it's moving.

    By LEON M. TUCKER

    © St. Petersburg Times, published August 19, 2000


    SAFETY HARBOR -- Ted Kwalwasser and Kathleen LeClaire never thought it would come to this.

    The longtime Safety Harbor residents say they had to hire a lawyer after the city's planning and zoning board quashed their plans to move the Nak for Nails nail salon from its location downtown to a small industrial cul-de-sac nearby.

    "I didn't think it was that much of an issue," LeClaire said. "Parking is a little hard for people over here, and when you've got an elderly woman who has to park a block away in the rain, that's not always good."

    So when the couple found the 600-square-foot building tucked between an auto body shop and a furniture construction business off 10th Avenue, they bought it for $90,000 and decided to move Nak for Nails there.

    But it's not that easy, according to the city's planning and zoning board.

    "It is the planning and zoning board's responsibility to implement a plan to locate businesses in suitable locations," said Ron Pianta, planning director. "We have limited industrial areas and we ought to protect those areas from encroachment of commercial business."

    At a July 12 meeting, Pianta and the board rejected Kwalwasser and LeClaire's request for a conditional-use permit for the site at 1013 Park Court. The permit, provided certain guidelines are followed, would have allowed use of the property for purposes contrary to its zoning. Despite no opposition from surrounding business owners, the couple's plan was rejected initially because it did not comply with three of seven requirements, Pianta said.

    The three criteria were: Making sure the property in question is compatible with existing and planned uses in the area; the conditional use is consistent with the goals, objectives and policies of all elements of the city comprehensive plan; and the plan is in agreement with the land development code.

    Clearwater attorney Ed Armstrong, who is representing Kwalwasser in the dispute, says the request meets all those criteria because, among the businesses listed as acceptable for conditional use, are personal or business service establishments.

    "I think that makes the point that a nail salon is probably the least intrusive of all the listed conditional uses," Armstrong said. "If those other conditional uses could be considered appropriate, how could they possibly deny a nail salon?"

    Among the other permitted uses in the M-1 industrial areas are a self-serve gas station, impound yard and car wash.

    "Never in a million years," Kwalwasser said. "If I had come in and these guys around here were steadfast against, then I would understand it. But basically everyone in this area says it doesn't bother them."

    Armstong and Kwalwasser wrote 10 letters and asked surrounding business owners to sign them if they did not object to a nail salon setting up shop in what once was the office of a construction company.

    "It doesn't bother us that a nail salon will be in there," said Kenny Sladky, manager of Suiters Construction. "It's not going to change the aesthetics of the area. It might even make it smell better over here."

    The situation escalated when the request went before the city commission Aug. 14. Commissioners were deadlocked 2-2 over whether the salon should get a use permit. Commissioner Nadine Nickeson was absent.

    "I actually feel sorry for him for having to hire a lawyer to help deal with this," said Commissioner Keith Zayac at the meeting.

    That evening Commissioners Neil Brickfield and Zayac voted in favor of the permit, while newcomer Jan Tracy and Mayor Pam Corbino voted to deny.

    "I was following the recommendation of our planning director and the planning and zoning board, who voted against it 7-0," Corbino said. "We as a commission have to look at that as well so I felt I had to vote against it."

    When the clerk asked Tracy for her vote, she said she was unclear what the commission was voting on and asked for clarification.

    Corbino explained to Tracy that they were voting on whether to approve or deny the Kwalwasser's request for the permit.

    "I voted against granting the conditional use because it came with a strong recommendation from the planning and zoning department to deny it, along with a recommendation from city staff to deny it," Tracy said this week. "I feel that I had an open mind. But it's a tough case and it was not an easy decision."

    The commission is scheduled to vote again on the issue on Aug. 21 with Nickeson present.

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