Westlake Council Unhappy With Change To Publix Plaza Plan

The Westlake entrance sign.

Members of the Westlake City Council were disappointed to hear at their Monday, Jan. 8 meeting that plans for a sit-down, dine-in restaurant in the Publix at Westlake Plaza have been scrapped, at least for now.

Instead, the lot at the prime southwest corner of Seminole Pratt Whitney Road and Town Center Parkway will go to a tire store after the council approved a site plan amendment, requested by the shopping center’s owner. Council members had hoped for a Panera Bread or something similar in that location.

“I’m disappointed to see that the high-turnover, sit-down restaurant has disappeared,” Mayor JohnPaul O’Connor told Donaldson Hearing of Cotleur & Hearing Landscape Architecture, representing the Publix real estate group.

Hearing also represents Minto Communities USA, the community’s primary landowner and developer.

Councilman Gary Werner also echoed O’Connor’s comment.

“I don’t want to see an overabundance of fast-food drive-throughs,” he said.

Hearing said that these decisions are usually market-driven.

“One of the outparcels could be suitable for a sit-down restaurant,” Hearing said. “It’s just a matter of time and market forces.”

Several storefronts connected to the Publix supermarket and liquor store could house smaller “mom-and-pop” restaurants, including the space at the north end of that structure that will have an awning to encourage outdoor seating or dining, Hearing noted.

City Manager Kenneth Cassel told council members that he and O’Connor have reached out to various restaurants in hopes of luring a well-known sit-down chain to the community, but it’s not as simple as it sounds.

“Every business has a matrix it follows,” Cassel explained. “It may be how many rooftops there are. Or how many daytime workers there are. Or they won’t come until business X, Y, Z locates here.”

For now, there’s not enough of something, but Cassel said that by creating an easy and predictable development process, Westlake has positioned itself well to take advantage the next time a chain is weighing the community against a city with “fuzzy, unpredictable” development rules.

In related news, council members were happier to hear that part of the approved site plan modification allows for the construction of 25,000-square-foot Planet Fitness gym north of the supermarket and its attached storefronts.

Hearing said he expects the building to “go up very, very fast” with construction beginning in the first quarter of this year and finishing in the fourth.

Cassel also noted that there was a drop off in certificates of occupancy in the latter part of December, which was related to the holidays and builders not wanting to try to squeeze in COs at the very end of the year.

Westlake continues to see 7 to 10 COs per week and averages about 40 per month, he said.

In other business:

  • The council approved the second readings of ordinances to strictly regulate “arcade amusement centers and electronic gaming establishments” and “massage establishments.”

“The purpose is to keep out the sort of seedy establishments we’d rather not have in the city,” O’Connor said.

And while Westlake can’t ban such businesses outright, he said, “We can regulate the heck out of them.”

The massage ordinance leaves room for therapeutic massage in, for instance, chiropractic and other medical offices, but requires that all non-medical establishments offering massage have at least one Florida-licensed massage therapist on the premises during all hours of operation, which are limited to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

  • The council approved the second reading of ordinances reconstituting Westlake’s Education and Youth Advisory Board and the Art in Public Places Committee.
  • Cassel noted that the city and the Seminole Improvement District, which provides roads and drainage infrastructure for Westlake, will share a grant writer. Among other grant-possible projects, both entities are seeking funds for the 50-acre regional park they are developing together west of Seminole Pratt Whitney Road and south of Seminole Ridge High School.
  • The council also approved Cassel bringing on board an additional staffer from Inframark, which contracts with the city to manage its government. The new staff member will handle communications, document management and event management.

Westlake hosts four public community events each year, one per quarter, with its FourthFest Independence Day celebration in July being the largest.

Cassel is also an Inframark employee.