Letter to the Editor from Save Our Neighborhood - Cynthia Remley
Five concerned Sand Key residents and representatives of Save Our Neighborhood (SON) filed an appeal of the Community Development Board's determination to approve the application of the Belleview Biltmore, LLC for the Cabana Club site. Recently Legg Mason has indicated that it cannot move forward with the renovations of the Belleview Biltmore hotel because of the pending appeal of SON concerning Legg Mason's proposed Cabana Club hotel/restaurant. But, according to Cynthia Remley, a spokesperson for SON, "This appeal is not related in any way to the Belleview Biltmore Hotel." Ms. Remley added, "We are not aware of any legal obstacles that should stop Legg Mason from moving forward with its renovations and redevelopment plans of the historic hotel located six miles away in the Town of Belleair. It is difficult to fathom that 38 hotel rooms on Sand Key in Clearwater, would prevent the renovation of the Belleview Biltmore's 450 hotel rooms from being successful. If that is the case then it would seem that the proposed renovation is not likely to bring all of the benefits that Legg Mason has represented to the Town of Belleair and to the Clearwater Community Development Board."
The Sand Key residents filed the appeal because (in their opinion) on September 16, 2008, the City's Community Development Board (CDB) incorrectly approved all of the numerous and significant deviations to the Community Development Code requested by Legg Mason Real Estate Investors, LLC. Legg Mason wants to tear down the current Cabana Club Restaurant and build a hotel/restaurant complex where the current parking lot, swimming pool and restaurant is located that seats about 175 people and squeeze into our residential neighborhood, a 38 room hotel/165 seat restaurant complex onto a lot that is less than half the width size required under the Code. The CDB, according o Save Our Neighborhood, approved Legg Mason's plans to build right up to the beach line ignoring the requirement that the building be set back 20 feet, and to rip out sea grasses and wild life habitat so they can place cabanas, pavers and planted grass on the sand, and build 260 % higher than the Code allows.
Gulf Boulevard, the only public street that runs north and south through Sand Key, is not curbed to accommodate any street parking so there is no capacity to absorb Legg Mason's inadequate number of parking spaces. One Sand Key resident noted, "For twenty-five years the City of Clearwater could not come up with a public parking lot to solve its parking problems on Clearwater Beach so why is the City trying so hard to impose the same parking problems on Clearwater citizens who live on Sand Key?"
SON's expert appraiser testified that surrounding home values will decrease $8,350,000 and affect 110 families by an average of $75,000 per home. Legg Mason's expert did not disagree that property values will be diminished. The last redevelopment on Sand Key occurred when the Utopia and Bella Rosa condominiums were built. Sand Key residents opposed the many deviations that were requested by that developer to build a 21-story high residential condo. The CDB also approved those requested Code deviations but the residents won on appeal and the condominiums were ultimately built according to the Code and without deviations. The CDB's approval of Legg Mason's application and its numerous deviations, according to SON, was not supported by competent substantial evidence and departed from the essential requirements of the law.
Joe Penner, Managing Director, Legg Mason has previously stated that "Legg Mason is fully committed to redeveloping the Cabana Club site with a new property which is consistent in size and scope to the surrounding area of Sand Key." SON encourages Legg Mason to do just that.
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