Some city leaders would like to see less creativity when it comes to developing South Clearwater Beach.
And because of their opposition to a Hampton Inn, the guidelines developers follow when creating projects for Clearwater Beach may be changed.
City council members opposed plans for a 150-foot-tall Hampton Inn for South Clearwater Beach in a 2-3 vote. They also opposed a plan 2-3 to redevelop the Quality Inn, which also would have meant using hotel rooms from a special density pool developed as part of Beach by Design.
Council members Doreen Hock-Dipolito and Jay Polglaze voted for the plans.
“This is more than a philosophical point. This is more like creative code interpretation and it sets a precedent,” said Mayor George N. Cretekos, who opposed the plans.
The project included demolishing the Quality Inn parking lot to develop a 15-story Key West Coastal design hotel as a Hampton Inn. The existing 91-room Quality Inn would have undergone changes as well.
The two developments would be connected with a 247-space parking garage that would take up the first five floors of the Hampton Inn.
Some leaders were uncomfortable with the deal that also would have taken 60 units from the density pool so the Quality Inn would meet code. Because of the lot adjustment and changes in code, the allowable amount of rooms at the Quality Inn would be 31.
There are 947 total rooms available in the density pool, which was established with 1,385 rooms in 2008 as part of the Beach-by-Design charter. The rooms are an incentive to create more dense development on certain parts of Clearwater Beach. The process includes reviews by city staff and volunteer groups like the Community Development Board before going to the City Council for its vote.
Polglaze worried about going against the established guidelines in Beach by Design.
“We created a path for allocation of these density units, and we go ahead and allow a developer to spend, and then we decide that maybe the path is not correct,” he said. “I think the path that has been created is correct. There will be 870 units left and they are first-come, first-served. ... There’s a lot of empty lots. When we use them up, we’re done.”
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Beach residents came out and voiced their opposition to the plans.
Janet Mass, president of Continental Towers, a condominium adjacent to Quality Inn, said she was there representing 84 owners.
“It’s not so much Beach by Design as much as it is Beach by Developer,” Mass said.
Steve Page, the project developer, said he spent about $170,000 on architect and design fees as well as securing the hotel’s flag, Hampton Inn.
“It’s very difficult to navigate through situations through this,” Page said, adding in that he followed the rules set in the Beach by Design code. “That’s all I have to go by.”
After the meeting, Page was not sure what his next step is.
“Nothing can happen now,” he said. “A Hampton Inn would be a great prize for the beach.”
With the vote, Page is out the money he spent to get to this point.
“I don’t feel good we ended up where we ended up,” said Vice Mayor Paul Gibson, who voted against the plans. “It is exactly the way the Business Task Force was saying there has to be a way to get something in front of us before (developers) spend all that money.”
At the end of the council meeting, Bill Horne, city manager, said work will start on revising the Beach by Design guidelines.
“It is obvious we need to review Beach by Design because staff clearly needs some moderation on its relativity,” Horne said. “We will come back with a timeline to make changes to Beach by Design.”
City Attorney Pam Akin said the process will take some time.
“Beach by Design took many hours, it was a very involved process and I think reviewing that process is going to take a lot of commitment,” she said. “This is probably not a one meeting discussion probably a multiple session discussion because it is pretty far reaching.”