MADEIRA BEACH — Sharp political differences about future development in two of the county's largest beach communities were on vivid display Tuesday.
In Madeira Beach, a city of political turmoil just a few years ago, the City Commission quickly and proudly embraced new development regulations that it hopes will attract more hotels and restaurants to those already under construction.
In contrast, in St. Pete Beach, where there was more than a decade of political and legal wrangling over development rules, commissioners agonized and debated for hours on issues ranging from temporary commercial off-street parking to a possible new condo hotel.
Both decisions by the commissions on Tuesday ended up favoring redevelopment, but in Madeira Beach the process generated excitement, while in St. Pete Beach the seven-hour meeting ended in exhaustion with many unresolved issues.
It took the Madeira Beach commission only four minutes to create a new comprehensive plan land use category for higher-density hotels and set new standards for redevelopment of the city's downtown core.
With even more dispatch, the commission unanimously approved a process to allow density and intensity of development on related properties to be combined.
"You are a now a very, very progressive city that finds a way to make things happen and not just watch and let time pass us by," said City Manager Shane Crawford.
The actions follow prior decisions to build a new $10 million city hall, fire station and recreation complex as well as approve a brand new major hotel — both now under construction.
Mayor Travis Palladeno said a "rebirth of our city" would result from the commission's actions, including redevelopment the long-vacant site of the former Leverock's Restaurant on the Madeira Beach Causeway.
"I am excited to finally get this done," Commissioner Terry Lister said. "This is a strategy to promote redevelopment. It will make this a nice city and a wonderful place to live."
St. Pete Beach
In neighboring St. Pete Beach, commissioners agonized for hours over whether hoteliers could temporarily park employee and guest cars on vacant residential lots.
Two of the three pending temporary use applications were unanimously approved for six months.
A similar but more controversial request for a lot in the Punta Vista neighborhood included a barely veiled threat of legal action from the owner of the Sirata Beach Resort, who was eventually allowed to pull his application and given 60 days to continue using the lot while applying for a more permanent conditional use permit.
It nearly midnight when the St. Pete Beach commission finally got around to what should have been the star item on its agenda — the prospect of a major hotel redevelopment.
The owner of the 1950s-era beachfront Plaza Beach Resort wants to tear down his existing small motel, at 4506 Gulf Blvd., and rebuild a modern condo hotel.
After several hours of debate, the commission approved a variance allowing larger room square footage and 19 additional rooms from the city's density pool, allowed under its currently contested comprehensive plan.
Most of the new hotel's 66 proposed units would average about 900 square feet and include two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Most hotel rooms in the city are about 750 square feet.