CLEARWATER - Following a proposed moratorium on development, four public meetings and a Community Development Board (CDB) hearing that was twice delayed, the Clearwater City Council will finally get their opportunity to vote on proposed amendments to Beach By Design at their regular meeting on Thursday March 2nd.
The proposed changes were initiated by the City's Planning Department to better define land use regulations in the Old Florida District of the beach, and to provide an incentive for the retention and redevelopment of beach hotels.
At their Monday work session, the Council was briefed on the proposed amendments, and took the opportunity to tinker with them in advance of their vote.
The proposed rules for the Old Florida District establish a ten-foot rear setback, but permit the flexibility of a zero setback. Assistant Planning Director Gina Clayton explained that the reduced setback has been used for pools and pool decks, accessory structures in planning terms, but that the code did not explicitly prohibit a building with zero rear setback.
The Council asked Clayton to rewrite the rear yard setback flexibility rules, continuing to permit a zero setback for accessory structures, but explicitly limiting a building's setback flexibility to five feet.
Councilmember Hoyt Hamilton argued for a 75-foot height limit in the Old Florida District, a limit that was recommended last week by the CDB over the staff-recommended 65-feet. He said that the ten additional feet in height does not produce any additional density; rather, it allows developers to build higher ceilings, resulting in a better product, higher resale values and ultimately higher tax revenues for the City.
But Mayor Frank Hibbard disagreed. "My leanings before hearing them (a meeting with CDB members was scheduled later in the day) are to allow 75 feet only for a transient use," he said. Hibbard went even further in an effort to increase incentives for hotel retention and development, saying that he wanted to prohibit the use of Transfers of Development Rights (TDR) for residential developments, limiting their use only to overnight accommodations.
Hamilton, an hotelier by profession, criticized an amendment that would increase density for overnight accommodations to 50 units per acre from 40. "It's an olive branch that nobody is going to take," he said. Hamilton claimed that the density of the planned Hyatt and Kiran Grand resorts is greater than 120 units per acre; "That's what it takes to get a hotel built today," he said, "and 50 is not going to get it done."
The City Council will continue the debate during their regular meeting at 6PM on Thursday March 2nd at City Hall, 112 South Osceola Avenue. Members of the public will be given an opportunity to speak on this issue.
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