The Beginning of Another Canyon
By Anne McKay Garris
Last week, the Community Development Board, a group of un-elected citizens who determine how our community will develop, voted to begin another building canyon along Coronado on South Clearwater Beach. At the recommendation of Clearwater City Staff, they approved a development agreement for an 108 room, 89 feet high to replace the Port Vu Motel at 101 Coronado.
Intended to be a Holiday Inn Express, the motel would have an increased density of 72 overnight accommodations from the City's Hotel Density Reserve. Thus a 35-foot height limitation is increased to 89 feet and the density increased from the otherwise allowed 36 units.
The Inn is slated to be partially condo owned, but the 72 additional units must be operated strictly as a motel with no residence occupancy.
Neighbors to the proposed development are seriously concerned about this much height and density at the entrance to the residential community of Devon Drive. Shadowing of swimming pools and sea grasses in the adjacent bay waters concern the near neighbors and difficult traffic problems made impossible concern the residents of Devon Drive who have only the route past the proposed hotel to exit from their community.
Additionally, the Holiday Inn has been allowed to extend up to 2 ½ feet from the property line which abuts the next door, two-story Sea Captain Resort. The developers argue that this part of the motel will be the parking garage, and only four stories high. This, somehow, fails to comfort the owners of the Sea Captain who feel the height of the building does not eliminate the noise and dimension of open space caused by the variance from 10 feet set back to 2 ½ feet.
Other "flexible development" variances for the project include allowance to build this large a building on a 100 foot lot, rather than the required 150 foot lot; allowance to be 1.15 feet from the front property line along Coronado, rather than the required 15 feet; a set back from the south property line of 5 feet rather than the required 15 feet.
A parking lot for the motel will be located across First Street, south of the property and setbacks were also allowed for that.
Neighbors and regular visitors to the next door Sea Captain Resort, who wrote in letters in objection, commented that this was simply too much building on too little land. They expressed concern that it would set a precedence for the same kind of canyon effect along Coronado which has been so deplored on Brightwaters Drive.
There was concern at the Sea Captain Resort that the height of the building will cut off the sunlight from their pool area enjoyed by their guests. Their research has also demonstrated that the shadow of the new building will affect the adjacent sea grasses area beside their docks where dolphins and manatees are often sighted.
At the Development Board meeting, the representative for the developers emphasized that fact that his client was "ready to go" with this project, unlike many other development projects on Clearwater Beach that have been stalled for months, or are now in bankruptcy.
Tonight the Clearwater City Council will vote on allotting the 72 extra units to the project, and approve the development agreement.
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