Issues Emerge With Hotel Density Proposal
by Carl Wagenfohr
CLEARWATER - On the eve of next week's City Council hearing on proposed amendments to Beach by Design, issues have surfaced about the hotel density pool feature that was crafted to incent the development of mid-priced hotels on Clearwater Beach.
The pool was designed to create "economic parity" between condominium and hotel projects that could be developed on Clearwater Beach. Clearwater's Planning Department claimed that a hotel project would need 5 to 7 rooms to compete with each condo unit that could be alternatively built. For a one-acre parcel, that translates to 150 to 200 hotel rooms versus 30 condominium units.
The proposed 1385-unit hotel density pool would be available to properties ¾-acre and larger, no more than 100 units would be dispensed per property, and projects using the pool would have to stay within Beach by Design's 75-to-100 foot height limitations.
Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard questioned the proposed limit of 100 hotel units per parcel during the March 3rd City Council worksession. "Why did you limit it to no more than 100 hotel rooms for any given project," Hibbard asked. "Because we didn't want larger properties gobbling up the pool," Assistant Planning Director Gina Clayton replied.
"Our mission was to achieve mid-priced hotels to offset the loss of mom and pops," Clayton continued, "and we felt that we needed to have some kind of criteria that precluded it [density pool] from being used by big resort projects."
But unlike the Beach by Design density pool that incented the assemblage of land for the development of resort hotels, this mid-priced hotel density pool may have the opposite effect - the division of large parcels into smaller ones to obtain more density pool units.
Take for example the 2.37-acre property fronting S. Gulfview Blvd and Coronado Drive owned by Lucca Development. Under the proposed rules for the density pool, the property would be eligible for 218 rooms, 100 units of density pool plus the 118 rooms it earns from its 50 units per acre zoning.
If Lucca were to instead divide the property into two 1.85-acre parcels, each of the properties would be eligible for 100 units from the density pool, increasing the total number of rooms to 318, clearly a much more lucrative opportunity for a prospective hotel operator.
Joe Burdette, a local land development and construction consultant said of the apparent incentive to divide properties, "People have already figured that out and talked to me about it."
The feasibility of constructing mid-sized hotels of such density has also been questioned. Take for example the Red Roof Inn. It currently has 73 rooms, but would be eligible for a total of 158 rooms on its 1.17 acres under the proposed rules.
Fitting 158 rooms onto such a parcel will be challenging enough, but providing the required 158 parking spaces without any additional height could be a deal breaker. According to Burdette, such density could not fit into 75-feet of height. He said that 100-feet might be able to accommodate 150 rooms and parking spaces per acre, but the resulting project could have no room for any amenities.
The proposed amendments to Beach by Design, including the hotel density pool, will be discussed during the March 17th City Council Worksession and the March 18th Community Development Board meeting. A hearing, with opportunity for public comment, will be held at the March 20th City Council meeting.
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