CLEARWATER — A longtime owner of a small mom-and-pop motel on Clearwater Beach says her dilapidated property has fallen into disrepair because a noted Tampa Bay developer and philanthropist broke his promise to fix it up.
But that developer, Dr. Kiran Patel of Tampa, filed a lawsuit against Riviera Motel owners Anka and Mirko Rudman last fall, contending that they owed him $1,771,202 for loans since 2010. Patel is seeking to foreclose on the property.
The Rudmans' attorney, Jawdet Rubaii, told the Tampa Bay Times on Friday that he had filed a counterclaim, alleging that Patel hadn't fulfilled his obligations. A copy of that filing wasn't available late Friday.
The Municipal Code Enforcement Board ruled earlier last week that the legal fight between Patel and the Rudmans isn't the issue. In the city's view, the abandoned motel at 217 Coronado Drive is a public nuisance.
The board ordered the Rudmans to come up with a plan for the 23-room motel by next month.
Patel, who recently announced he'll soon break ground on his long-delayed resort across Coronado from the Riviera, didn't want to discuss the Rudmans' claims when contacted by the Times, citing potential litigation.
"Anybody can make allegations about anything," Patel said Thursday.
The Rudmans, who have owned the Riviera since 1988, shuttered the motel in 2010 after business slowed.
At the code board meeting Wednesday, Anka Rudman said Patel had promised that he would fix up the motel and let them run it for him. "He tells us what we want to hear, he goes nice and smooth," said Anka Rudman after she addressed the board.
Rudman said Patel promised the couple, both in their 70s, a monthly stipend and a future job at the motel after it was remodeled.
But Patel's suit contends that the Rudmans "failed to pay any of the monthly payments" and didn't pay the balance when the $1,005,249 promissory note matured in July 2013. Patel's suit also claims that he made other loans to the Rudmans totaling several hundred thousand dollars between 2010 and 2013.
The Pinellas County Property Appraiser's Office placed an assessed value of just over $600,000 on the property, but the motel occupies prime real estate just north of the Hyatt Regency and across the street from Patel's planned $170 million, 450-room resort.
The Riviera is one of the last mom-and-pop motels on the beach. Many of them have been demolished to make way for more modern hotels. Others have limped along by renting out rooms for extended periods or with a faithful, mostly older clientele.
About six years ago, the city placed curbs along Coronado as part of its BeachWalk improvements, eliminating much of the parking on the public right of way for the street's motels and stores. Since then, properties on the east side of Coronado, cut off from gulf views and dwarfed by high-rise projects like the Hyatt Regency, have suffered.
The code board found the Riviera to be an abandoned building and public nuisance. Code inspectors showed photos of unsecured doors, piles of trash and a filthy swimming pool. After Rudman pleaded for more time, the board gave her until next month's meeting to come up with a plan to remodel, sell or demolish the motel.
"We want to encourage you to get something going," said Duane Schultz, the board's chairman.
Charlie Frago can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4159. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago.