Council to Hear Beach by Design Amendments
by Carl Wagenfohr
CLEARWATER - Tonight, the City Council will hear proposed amendments to Beach by Design, the city's master plan for the redevelopment of Clearwater Beach.
This will have been the plan's fifth amendment since its adoption in 2001. This time, however, the amendments have been crafted to incent the development of what to a large extent has been lost to condo construction over the last several years, affordable hotel rooms.
In an effort to create "economic parity" with condominium projects that have consumed many small motel properties since the adoption of Beach by Design, Clearwater's Planning Department have proposed the creation of a 1385-unit hotel unit density pool.
The 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.
During Tuesday's Council worksession, Vice Mayor John Doran asked for a definition of the amenities a mid-priced hotel might lack; City Planner Robert Tefft answered with several examples, including spas, large conference facilities and a large number of restaurants.
"I would say that there's a difference between mid-priced mid-sized hotels on the mainland versus a mid-priced product out on the beach," said Mayor Frank Hibbard, arguing that beach-going families would expect more amenities than the basic hotel described by Tefft.
Councilmember Paul Gibson questioned, "What the value of these density units would be in a height-constrained environment," and wondered if many hotel chains might not accept the small rooms that would result.
Planning Director Michael Delk replied, "A prototypical mid priced mid-sized hotel does fit. It would not accommodate 2000 square foot hotel rooms that could, in the future, be converted to condos."
Delk explained that within the 100 feet height limitation, "You can put two or three levels of parking, six or seven floors of hotel rooms that would get you to that unit count for a viable hotel."
Doran also asked if a provision of Beach by Design that reduces the square footage of floors over 42-feet of building height would apply to hotels using the density pool. That provision of Beach by Design was intended to reduce the mass of buildings by introducing step-backs in upper floors. Staff had no immediate answer, and will respond during tonight's Council meeting.
Clearwater's Community Development Board heard the proposed Beach by Design amendments at their March 18th meeting and voted 5-1 to recommend approval to the City Council. Included in their recommendation was the elimination of the minimum lot size requirement for density pool eligibility.
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