CLEARWATER - The City Council will hold a public hearing on proposed amendments to the Hyatt Beachwalk Resort development agreement during their meeting on Thursday December 2.
Among other changes, the proposed Hyatt agreement would grant 24 additional hotel units from the Beach by Design density pool, compensating for the developers decision to convert 24 existing hotel units into 18 condos.
In addition, the agreement would grant a 50-year "license to use and operate the Beach Service Facility", which is essentially a City-owned retail storefront on the beach side of the resort's pedestrian bridge. The Clearwater City Charter prohibits the Council from leasing City-owned property for more than 30 years unless that lease is approved at a referendum. While City Attorney Pam Akin has argued that a license is more restrictive in terms of property rights and is therefore not a lease, others disagree. Paul Marino, Attorney for the City of Belleair Beach and Town of Kenneth City, claims that the "License and Lease for the purpose of the charter are synonymous," and the "license" should be subject to the Charter provisions that limit the Council's powers relating to real property.
One facet of the development agreement that is unchanged is the provision of four hundred public parking spaces within the resort, but there is growing concern about the rates that will be charged. A survey of comparable parking facilities submitted by the developer indicated daily rates ranging from $12 at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott to $21 at the Miami Beach Marriott; the daily parking rate at the City lot being removed by Beachwalk is $10.
Council member Hamilton said, "The public's going to scream loud and long for the City to build public parking" if the Hyatt's rates are in that range. But the City has no land on which to build a public garage; the development agreement prohibits the City from constructing more than 300 additional spaces within 1/4 mile of the Hyatt for a period of 5 years, effectively ruling out the Marina as a potential location.
The agreement also contains a clause that gives the City the option to purchase the resort's 400 public spaces if the City determines that the parking rates are "unreasonable." But given the City's past financial inability to build a parking garage, it is unlikely to have the resources necessary to buy those spaces within the option period of five years.
Council member Hibbard thinks that the Hyatt's 400 public spaces should have rates comparable to what the City currently charges at the lots being lost to Beach Walk. "This is a loose end that should have been taken care of," he said, but he hasn't yet determined what he's willing to do to preserve affordable beach parking.
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