CLEARWATER - The Clearwater City Council will determine the fate of a proposed 350-room resort hotel on South Beach at their public meeting tonight. On the agenda are three separate issues that must be approved for the resort to move forward: a land swap between the City and the developer that would allow the widening of Coronado Avenue, the vacation by the City of First Street and dedication by the developer of a new Second Street, and the "Main Event" as planning Director Cyndi Tarapani described it, the Development Agreement between the City and K & P Clearwater Estate, the developer.
At their Work Session on Monday December 13 the Council received a recommendation from Tarapani that they do not frequently hear: denial of all three items.
Plans for the proposed resort took shape under the former owner of the properties where it was to be built, Tony Markopoulos. The Community Development Board approved the site plan for the 350-room hotel with 75 attached condo units on August 17, despite the recommendation of staff for denial. "The primary concern staff has with this proposal", said Planner Wayne Wells during that meeting, "relates to the design, scale and massing of the building."
While it approved the site plan, the CDB deferred its recommendation on the proposed development agreement until its September 21 meeting, giving Markopolous time to amend the agreement to provide more public parking. By the September 21 meeting date, Markopolous had sold the properties to Dr. Kiran Patel's company, K & P Clearwater Estate; the CDB again deferred its recommendation to its next meeting, October 19, to give the new owner time to assess the Development Agreement.
According to a staff report, the developer did not propose any changes to the Development Agreement for consideration at the October 19 meeting; the developer's representative asked the CDB to deny the agreement because it was not complete, and the CDB did so. "Clearly the idea was to just move it along to the City Council rather than work it out with the staff, CDB or anybody else," Tarapani told the Council during their Monday Work Session.
Tarapani outlined three major issues with the Development Agreement. The first is the allocation of density pool units. 250 units are being requested, but use of the density pool requires compliance with 14 criteria for a major resort and, according to Tarapani, this project does not meet one of them - "exceptional architectural design and high quality finishes." Tarapani went on to cite three technical requirements of Beach by Design that the project does not meet, and added, "These in combination result in a project that we think is not consistent with the design objectives that are on the very first page of the (Beach by Design) design guidelines."
The second major issue, according to Tarapani, is the proposed pedestrian bridge connecting the resort to the dry sand beach. The City objects to the bridge for several reasons. A staff report expresses concern that it will block views along Gulfview Blvd and set a precedent for additional bridge requests that would create visual clutter. The proposed location of the beachside landing is another issue; it would require demolishing the City's existing lifeguard building. "We have asked on multiple occasions to have that moved; it has not been moved. This is really a deal beaker for us," Tarapani said.
Parking is the third major issue. Tarapani explained that the developer has proposed increasing the number of parking spaces available to the public from 15 to 100, but it appears that there will not be 100 spaces dedicated to the public; "they will use spaces that are vacant and make them available on a day-by-day basis," Tarapani said.
City Attorney Pam Akin said that the developer has made several late revisions to the proposed Development Agreement, revisions that Council members had not yet seen. In addition, she said, the developer would be presenting a new site plan on Thursday night, a site plan that has never been seen by either the Community Development Board or City staff.
Closing the work session discussion, Mayor Brian Aungst said, "look forward to Thursday night;" it was not clear whether he would be enjoying the debate on this issue, or be relieved that it would be the last Council meeting he would preside over as Mayor.
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