Sand Key Residents Fight Cabana Club Development
Sand Key residents are riled up over code deviations of the proposed redevelopment of the present Cabana Club located at 1590 Gulf Boulevard in Clearwater.
By Bill Lopez
SAND KEY - The present Cabana Club that has been operated for many years by the Belleview Biltmore hotel and resort complex on Sand Key is slated for a major $25,000,000 up grade.
Legg Mason Real Estate Investors, Inc., the owner and redeveloper of the Biltmore and the Cabana Club properties plans to replace the present club and swimming pool with a six-story luxury 38-room boutique hotel that will include a large restaurant, bar and beach side cabaña amenity.
Local residents are complaining to the city that the project is too commercial for the largely residential area although the present site has operated commercially there for years. Community activists have organized opposition to the project and have fashioned an information blog and web site pointing out several objections.
Design and construction plans that have been revised by the developer seek various deviations to the Community Development Code that has been in place since 1999. The deviations deal with set backs, distance to neighboring properties and building height, all of which pose problems according to opponents of the project.
The issues are now under review by the Clearwater Planning Department. City Planner Wayne Wells indicated that a department report will be available by August 14 delineating city staff recommendations concerning the requested code variances. This provides sufficient time for the board to study the report before taking action on the issues at their August 19th meeting at city hall.
Wells indicated the board may approve or deny the deviations as submitted or impose certain conditions that would have to be met or delay the decision to a future date. One condition that is already understood is the requirement that the cabaña portion of the project be approved by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Code specifies no building west of a demarcation line (CCCL) along the beach while the project proposes the operation of a beach cabana service for guests that would be located on the seaward side of the CCCL encompassing some 25 of protected beach front.
The cabanas are considered an importance element of the project’s marketability and would ostensibly be made of light frames and canvas that would be stricken upon receipt of severe storm warnings.
Opponents envision heavy beach use as a result of the hotel and cabanas in an area they consider environmentally sensitive. The www.saveourshoppes.com web site depicts the area as a sea turtle hatchery.
Ocean views coveted by residents near the project could conceivably be diminished by the height of the proposed building. It measures 67 feet above the flood zone line that is approximately 6 feet above ground level at the site. The code calls for 25 feet. But many buildings in the area surpass the 25 foot code and two properties at 1350 and 1370 Gulf Boulevard have received variances to 80 feet within the past three years.
It is within the purview of the city planners to grant variance from 25 to 50 feet while a level of 67 feet requires board approval. None of the variances need be approved by city council which deals only with resolutions and the passage of city ordinances and amendments.
Parking set backs requested do not change the present perimeter of the street side of the parking area but are nevertheless outside the code guidelines.
The Clearwater Gazette attempted calls about the deviations to Amy Maguire with Southern Strategy Group that is working on the project for Legg Mason but these were not returned.
The design architects for the project are RJ Hiesenbottle Architects of Coral Gables. Lead architect Richard Heisenbottle presented the details of the project in a public meeting last Tuesday at the Belleview Biltmore.
Contact Bill Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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