Will Sand Key Shoppes Disappear?
By Anne McKay Garris
The Shoppes of Sand Key -- the only place where you can purchase a box of Kleenex, get a haircut, have a quick snack on Sand Key island -- may soon disappear if would-be developers succeed in getting the Clearwater City Council to agree to a zoning change of the site.
The Sand Key Civic Association, last Wednesday, heard Kevin Fallon, representative of Cedarwood Corporation, owners of the Sand Key Marriott, talk about being a good neighbor. He informed the audience that no detailed plans were available but that Cedarwood Corporation had a "due diligence" option on the property and was looking at the feasibility of replacing the shops with another motel. In order to do this, they would need to get the Clearwater City Council to approve a zoning change from "business" which does not allow condos or motels, to "tourist" which does.
Florida State Representative Ed Hooper who is the consultant to the developer, informed the audience that "business" was no longer a zoning category in Clearwater -- that it had been placed on the site by a court order, now expired, which lasted 20 years. He reassured the audience that transfer of development rights and building heights above 100 feet were not allowed on Sand Key as they are on Clearwater Beach. He added that the request for "tourist" zoning had already been approved by staff and was expected to go before the Community Development Board in December. "This would likely put it before the Clearwater Council in January," he said, "and, typically, the Council does not decide in opposition to the Development Board."
Clearly upset about the idea of losing all of the retail businesses on the island, several of the Sand Key residents asked about alternatives. When one asked about the possibilities of "commercial" being a better zoning which would allow retail, Hooper warned them that they needed to consider that "commercial" also included warehouses and storage units.
Fallon added that they planned to apply for boat slips at the motel and had already hired a consultant to figure a way to get to the Intracoastal Waterway with a minimum of damage to the grass flats between the hotel and the Waterway. (This is at least the third time that hotel management has attempted to obtain permission for boat slips at the site.) He promised that the boat slips would only be at the current hotel site and would not extend to the site now occupied by the Shoppes.
After the Cedarwood Representatives and their consultants had left, several citizens expressed skepticism about what they had heard and concern about how the quality of life and property values would be reduced if retail use was no longer allowed on the Island.
In other business, the Association heard a representative from Pinellas County give details about the Belleair Bridge and the adjacent park which will be completely renovated as the bridge is finished, some time in September of 2009. He reported that the hot line for getting information on the closings of the bridge during construction was 727-453-3355.
The owner of the restaurants, Maggie Mae's and Backwater's, located in the Shoppes area, announced the sponsoring of a blog entitled sandkeyblog.com which is open to provide information of interest to Sand Key residents. He invited the Board of Directors to post information on the blog.
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