Cabana Club Opponents Lose Battle Over Code Deviations
By Bill Lopez
CLEARWATER -- In a marathon five-hour meeting Tuesday, the Community Development Board in Clearwater waded through reams of testimony and arguments concerning the proposed 38-room Cabana Club hotel project on Sand Key.
Legg Mason Real Estate Investors, Inc. requested several building code deviations for the six-story building to be constructed at the 1.38-acre parcel of land at 1590 Gulf Boulevard. The site for the $25 million project has been zoned commercial for years but is surrounded by residential property. Negative impacts of height deviations, setbacks and the proposed parking plans were cited by opponents of the project who turned out in force for the open meeting at city hall. Todd Pressman speaking for a coalition of neighborhood groups that banned together to form "Save Our Neighborhood" said they just want to preserve the residential character of the area. He said "a project like the Cabana Club would be better suited for Clearwater Beach where large hotels are presently operated."
In addition to expert witnesses and stakeholders, approximately seventeen people spoke against the project to the board while three favored it. City Planner Wayne Wells told board members that all the issues were carefully evaluated and that his department recommended approval.
In the end, the board agreed with the staff recommendations and voted unanimously 7 to 0 to approve all the requested deviations with several minor conditions.
Representatives for the developer said that property would not be viable without common ownership with the Belleair Biltmore. To appease opposition, the developers said that common ownership be mandated in a deed restriction that if deviated, would require a re-sizing of the restaurant. In addition, a requirement that the cabaņa portion of the project be approved by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection was stipulated as a condition.
Opponents were very vocal in expressing concern that the property is too commercial for the area and that it will provide parking and traffic problems and will diminish the value of adjacent properties, especially those that will suffer from reduced views of the Gulf.
An appraiser suggested that the loss in value of adjacent properties would be in the vicinity of $8.3 million due to diminished Gulf views and the accelerated commercial activity from a busy hotel and restaurant.
However, in approving the project, the board expressed that properties on the east side of the Boulevard have no real claim to an ocean view since those locations do not constitute beachfront property.
The size and scope of the restaurant and the number of parking spaces for both the hotel and restaurant were particularly controversial. Plans include 125 seats in the restaurant and 56 parking spaces. Opponents suggested that filling that many seats would require more than the allotted 56 parking spaces and that parking would spill over and present traffic difficulties.
Plans for the Cabana Club include a new swimming pool and beach side cabaņas considered essential to achieving the developer's goal of a Four or Five-Star rating for the refurbished Biltmore.
Originally constructed in 1897 and operated by Henry Plant, the resort become known as the White Queen of the Gulf during the early years of the last century but deteriorated over the years to its present condition. A $125 million injection of cash by Legg Mason is intended to make the resort grand once again to attract patrons from around the would to the hotel and beach amenities on Sand Key.
Contact Bill Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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