Fort Pierce will have a total of four arcades if latest facility is approved by City Commission

FORT PIERCE – The Fort Pierce Planning Board voted unanimously May 10 to recommend approval of an arcade for Delaware Avenue, the first for that corridor and the fourth for the city if ultimately approved by the City Commission.

The city’s sole arcade prior to this year was the YF Arcade at 2732 S. U.S. 1.

On March 1, the City Commission approved conditional use permits for two arcades in the old K-Mart Plaza at the northwest corner of U.S. and Virginia Avenue.

The first was for a 2,000-square-foot arcade with 33 machines in the strip portion of the Gateway Plaza at 2051 S. U.S. 1, while the second 30-machine arcade will occupy the former Payless outparcel building at 2061 S. U.S. 1.

Those businesses, coupled with a new Wawa gas station and restaurant currently going up in the plaza, are slated to bring new life to the refurbished plaza. While some neighborhood residents immediately behind the plaza opposed those approvals, no one spoke out in opposition to the latest proposal for the Lucky 7 Arcade at 1702 Delaware Ave.

Planner Vennis Gilmore provided Board members a brief description of the proposed arcade.

“The subject property is located at the northwest corner of South 17th Street and Delaware Avenue,” he said. The property’s approximately 1.28 acres, and the site plan for the proposed amusement arcade will consist of a 5,898-square-foot facility dedicated to adults ages 18 years and up. Hours of operation [will be] 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday through Saturday [with] five to 10 staff members present at all times. There will be 56 parking spaces with three designated handicapped spaces.”

In addition, Mr. Gilmore explained that the developer planned on dividing the current 7,900- square-foot structure into two distinct portions for both the arcade and a separate restaurant to be added in the future.

“It was previously a restaurant and bar/nightclub,” he added. “The existing structure will be divided by a proposed firewall. The proposed restaurant will have a separate entrance and will share the building and parking. The submitted parking calculation includes the required parking for both uses, and the conditional-use approval is only for the arcade amusement center.”

Mr. Gilmore subsequently recommended approval of the Lucky 7 Arcade with more than a dozen conditions, including a prohibition on alcohol sales and consumption on the premises, the submission of a landscape plan, lighting for the parking lot, sidewalk connections and a distance waiver from the Gateway Plaza arcade, among several others. After he concluded his presentation, Board Member Bob Burdge peppered the planner with questions about a grassy area on the western fringe of the property he feared would turn into an overflow parking lot despite the city’s prohibition on parking there.

“One of the recommendations you’re asking us to consider is that the 8,000-square-foot grassy area not be used for parking,” he said. “But you’re asking for them to light it up.”

The city planner, however, insisted the city was not asking the developer to make improvements on that particular section.

“That’s why we put the comment of no parking,” he explained. “They could put lights there if they want to, but there’s no parking. That’s one of the conditions: If they break that, then they break their conditional use.”

Planning Director Jennifer Hofmeister offered her own input and echoed Mr. Gilmore’s comments, emphasizing that the city only permitted grass parking for non-profit groups.

“That would be a violation to one of our conditions of approval, but perhaps we can get some clarity from the applicant,” she said. “If their intention is to park there, they will have to either provide it per Code – asphalt parking with wheel stops – or they will have to get approval by the city engineer for alternative parking.”

Chairman Frank Creyaufmiller also attempted to alleviate Mr. Burdge’s concerns that no one would be able to control unmonitored parking, confirming with Mr. Gilmore that both the arcade and the restaurant met the city’s minimum parking requirements. He believed the owner wouldn’t personally be liable for controlling the parking habits of arcade patrons.

“The number you’ve got here, 56, is how many spaces are available on paved surfaces, which is by Code where they can park,” he said. “By our City Code, they shouldn’t be parking on anything outside of paved surfaces anyway, [so] the management of the facility can’t offer it as a parking space. Should someone choose to park there, that’s a different discussion again, correct?”

“Correct,” Mr. Gilmore replied.

When Board Member Burdge continued asking to remove the parking restriction so arcade employees wouldn’t have to play traffic cop, Ms. Hofmeister appealed to the applicant.

“We need some clarification,” she said. “If their intention is to park [there], then they need to come into compliance with parking. It could be an alternative, but it has to be approved by the city engineer.”

After Ms. Hofmeister admitted the project’s current photometric plan required the developer to illuminate the grassy area, Vice-Chairman Michael Broderick echoed the call for the developer’s input.

“Obviously there’s a disconnect from the perspective of their planning on installing underground wiring and electric poles for a grass area that’s not supposed to be parked in,” he said. “So why don’t we get the applicant up here before we really beat this thing to death any further.”

The property owner, Maria Alvarez, then came to the podium and insisted she had no plan to ever use that spot for parking.

“I’m not sure why there’s lighting going on there now, but we’re not going to use anything on that site,” she said. “There shouldn’t be any parking – there’s no use at all for that parcel.”

Mr. Burdge, in turn, wanted to relieve the developer of the need to illuminate the spot but found his good intentions only served to further muddy the water.

“If you were relieved of having to put lights in that grassy area that you’re not going to use anyway, you would accept that wouldn’t you?”

Ms. Alvarez, however, appeared confused due to the other condition requiring unity of title on both parcels.

“Well, I’m not sure,” Ms. Alvarez answered. “Right now, they’re telling me just to put lighting in our area. We’re going back and forth with that parcel, so that’s the confusion. If the city’s requiring for us to put lighting on that area, we’re going to do it, but we’re still waiting for what’s going to happen with that parcel because we have to combine that as well.”

For his part, Mr. Gilmore, attributed part of the confusion to an internal driveway on the property connecting to 17th Street.

Technically this could become a different owner and they wouldn’t have complete access,” he said. “So that’s the reason for the condition of a unity of title and a lot combination. But we’re not stating that she has to provide lighting for this parcel.”

After further discussion, Board Member Burdge made a motion to recommend approval to the City Commission, which was seconded by Vice-Mayor Broderick. Right before the vote, the latter pointed out that 1702 Delaware Ave. had been vacant for more than five years.

“My office is right up the street from there, and this property’s been vacant for an extended period of time,” he said. “I think it would be beneficial to get a use in that area and in that particular site. That portion of Delaware Avenue could use some commercial activity.”

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