Save Our Neighborhood's Appeal - The Result Is In - The CDB Was Wrong
May 2009 Save Our Neighborhood (S.O.N.) filed an appeal with the Circuit Court seeking to overturn the September 2008 ruling of Clearwater's Community Development Board (CDB) that approved the multiple code deviations Legg Mason requested to redevelop the site of the Cabana Club restaurant and swimming pool on Sand Key. These deviation requests included the approval of only 56 parking spaces where 113 are required for a 38-room hotel and a 165-seat restaurant.
A panel of three Circuit Court judges issued an Order on February 26, 2010. The judges agreed with S.O.N. that the Community Development Board (CDB) was incorrect and deviated from the law when they combined the hotel rooms of the Belleview Biltmore, located six miles away in the Town of Belleair, with the proposed Cabana Club Hotel on Sand Key. This combination was done by Clearwater's Planning Department, and then approved by the CDB, in order to characterize the Cabana Club Restaurant as an "accessory restaurant" that did not need to have its own designated 75 parking spaces, in addition to the required 38 parking spaces for the hotel.
The judges also agreed with S.O.N. that the CDB was "incorrectly advised on the rules of evidence" by their own attorneys when they were directed to not allow S.O.N.'s attorney, Mr. Zimmet, to cross examine the parking expert of Legg Mason. "Such testimony could have made the difference in assuring that cars do not stack out onto Gulf Boulevard jeopardizing the safety of our residents," said Ms. Remley, a spokesperson for S.O.N. It also would likely have illustrated that Legg Mason anticipates that as many as 268 Belleview Biltmore Hotel guests are expected to drive to the Cabana Club Hotel's 56 parking spaces rather than taking a shuttle or a "water taxi" as Legg Mason represented.
Ms. Remley added that "when S.O.N. representatives met with the City's Planning Department in July 2008, it was apparent that they had never read an important document that clearly established that no water taxi could be operated by Legg Mason. They do not own any docks or water front uplands on Sand Key and there are no commercial docks or commercial zoned uplands in this residential area." But the Planning Department's Director said that it was too late for him to change his mind, even though the CDB hearing had not yet occurred, and he indicated residents would just have to file a lawsuit.
Ms. Remley said, "It is very disappointing that the judges concluded that these mistakes 'did not result in a miscarriage of justice' or 'depart from the essential requirements of the law.' It is Sand Key's residents who must live with another additional and very serious mistake made by Clearwater's Planning Department and its CDB, adversely affecting our property values and impacting our residential neighborhood."
An appeal can be filed with the Second District Court of Appeals within 30 days from the date of the Order. "Whether an appeal should be filed is being evaluated," said Ms. Remley.
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