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Council wants to protect low-rise building profile in motel district


Published:   |   Updated: December 18, 2013 at 04:59 PM

Changes to Clearwater Beach development blueprint up for approval
 
CLEARWATER — The city council tonight will consider whether to tweak development standards for Clearwater Beach relating to setbacks in the Small Motel District and further restrictions to the hotel density pool.
 
All year, the council and hotel developers have been debating provisions in Beach by Design, the city’s plan for future development on the barrier island, including building plots; setbacks; mass, height and elevation; exterior facades; view corridors; and room density.
 
Those discussions have led the council and city staff to conclude that the plan should be amended again, this time to allow for greater setbacks; to prevent walling off views of the Gulf of Mexico; and perhaps to eliminate quibbling among developers trying to protect perceived entitlements to those waterfront vistas and other supposed rights, such as the number of hotel rooms allowed. 
 
During a work session Monday, the council got a look at a proposed amendment regarding the Small Motel District.
 
The district is situated east of Beach Walk and west of the Intracoastal Waterway. It lies between Coronado and Hamden drives and is a mix of small motels, restaurants, shops and a few empty lots.
 
Brightwater Drive, which is off Hamden and stretches east to the intracoastal, also is within the motel district. Mostly mid-rise town houses and time-shares line the street.
 
City Assistant Planning and Development Director Gina Clayton told the council that the proposed amendment will require hotel developers to establish 10-foot setbacks, creating a total of 20 feet of open space between buildings in the district.
 
 “We always say we’re flexible toward zero — I want to get away from that,” Vice Mayor Paul Gibson said. “... We should have no less than a 10-foot setback.”
 
The lack of space and view corridors between proposed hotels along Gulfview Boulevard was one factor driving the amendment. Another significant reason, Clayton said, is because “the small motel district is a compact area and still has potential for intense redevelopment in the future.”
 
The motel district is comprised of much lower profile buildings than in the tourist districts along Gulf and Gulfview boulevards, Mandalay Avenue and East Shore Drive, where mega-resort hotels are allowed.
 
In addition, the proposed amendment regulates the use of rooms awarded from the city’s hotel density reserve to ensure they’re available on a transient basis and not as time-share or fractional interest properties. 
 
The density reserve, an effort to attract more mid-price hotels to the beach, allows developers to build more rooms than otherwise would be allowed. For such a hotel to be a financial success in an area with expensive real estate, developers need as many rooms as they can get.
 
Fractional ownership means the costs of buying and running often expensive properties is shared by a number of people. Instead of sitting idle most of the time, the homes nearly always are in use. These properties, often called residence clubs, comprise one of the fastest-growing segments of the vacation-home market.
 
The proposed amendment additionally requires that all reserve units be available for booking through a reservation system or rental program and cannot have a full kitchen.
 
The Community Development Board unanimously recommended approval of the proposed changes at a public hearing last month.
 
Beach by Design, the Clearwater Beach master plan, was adopted in 2001 and amended seven times, the last in 2010. It recognizes a need to balance the needs of residents and tourists.
 
The city council is scheduled to take its first vote on the changes when it meets at 6 tonight in its chambers at city hall, 112 S. Osceola Ave. A second favorable council vote at a later date would make the changes official.
 
jane@clearwatergazette.com

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