Clearwater Planning Commission to rule on
Cabana Club Project
Sand Key residents fight developer requests for code deviations…
Commission meeting set for August 19
By Bill Lopez
Beach side view of the proposed Cabana Club on Sand Key.
Sand Key -- When developers Legg Mason Real Estate Investors, Inc. purchased the Biltmore properties in 2007, they envisioned a 4-Star destination resort with access to a world class beach.
That access would come about through construction of the Cabaña Club beach resort on approximately one acre of land at 1590 Gulf Boulevard in the Sand Key area of Clearwater. A pleasant 1.5 mile ferry ride from the main Biltmore hotel across the Intracoastal Water Way to Sand Key would take guests to the Cabana Club's well manicured sandy beach on the Gulf of Mexico. Beachside cabanas made of light frames and canvas would line the beach front for the enjoyment of Biltmore and Cabana Club guests.
Local residents however, don't appreciate the project and claim the area is not meant for commercial development. Moreover, they contend that construction plans violate building codes and will impair ocean views for nearby residents while creating parking and other problems.
An active coalition of residents and local associations have communicated their objections to the Clearwater Planning Commission, which has the responsibility of overseeing building codes for such projects.
The issue comes to a critical juncture next Tuesday, August 19, at 1:30 p.m. when the Planning Commission will consider several code deviation requests and review opposition to the project by Sand Key residents. Clearwater City Planner Wayne Wells said the commission must go by the code as written and also look to any precedents that exist in the city that would have a bearing on the matter.
A staff report with recommendations is expected to be available by August 15 to allow commissioners time to review it before the meeting on the 19th.
The developers propose a reduction in lot width to 88 feet where 200 feet is the present standard as well as a reduction in the front set back along Gulf Boulevard to five feet for the parking area where the standard is 25 feet. An increase in allowable height of 25 feet to 67 feet is also being requested. 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.
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.
With only six floors and 38 rooms, the project is considered a boutique in the world of modern resorts. Biltmore restoration Architect Richard Heisenbottle unveiled plans for its development last month at a meeting inside the historic Biltmore that is slated for renovation pending litigation over the project.
A law suit by residents who live near the Biltmore filed with the Appellate Division of the 6th Judicial Court in Florida alleges that space configurations of the new Biltmore plan do not conform with codes and that their appeals were not given sufficient hearings at a city code meeting (in the Town of Belleair). They also take issue with what they assert will be a parking problem in the neighborhood as a result of the renovation plans.
Heisenbottle indicated the Cabana Club portion of the entire $125 million renovation would cost about $25 million and take about 16 months to complete while the entire plan for the hotel renovation and new construction would take about 31 months.
Contact Bill Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org.