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Coconut Inn in Pass-a-Grille awaits decision or another delay

Joe Caruso’s attorneys and his neighbors have been negotiating a redevelopment compromise, but none had been reached by Friday. 

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times (2009)

Joe Caruso’s attorneys and his neighbors have been negotiating a redevelopment compromise, but none had been reached by Friday. 

ST. PETE BEACH — The long-running debate over redevelopment of the Coconut Inn may be resolved at the City Commission meeting Tuesday. Or not.

Owner Joe Caruso wants the ability to redevelop the Pass-a-Grille hotel. Nearby residents oppose commercial intrusion into their neighborhood.

For months, Caruso's attorneys and his neighbors have been negotiating a redevelopment agreement that would appease both sides.

In May, city attorney Suzanne Van Wyk told the commission that unless a compromise is found, the city would likely be sued.

A tentative agreement has been circulating among the parties, but as of Friday, none had been reached.

As a result, the commission must decide Tuesday whether to vote on Caruso's rezoning request or again delay action in expectation of a compromise.

The 86-year-old Coconut Inn at 113 11th Ave. is a grandfathered hotel surrounded by homes. When Caruso purchased it in 2008, it was known as the Leroy Motel and was frequented by drug users and dealers, he said. Caruso refurbished it as upscale tourist lodging.

In the fall of 2009, Caruso applied for Traditional Hotel District zoning, a category to allow small tourist lodgings in Pass-a-Grille residential areas to rebuild or renovate at any time instead of only after a catastrophic loss like a hurricane or fire.

The Coconut Inn is one of nine hotels in Pass-a-Grille that qualify for THD zoning.

The Gulf Way Inn and the Sable Palms Inn already have the zoning. The Coconut Inn, Inn on the Beach, Castle Hotel, Island's Inn Resort, the Fairhaven Estate Bed and Breakfast, the Pass-a-Grille Beach Hotel and the Keystone Hotel do not.

The commission rejected Caruso's request for THD zoning in January 2010 amid strong protests from nearby residents. In October, Caruso reapplied for the zoning and then delayed his application to allow the city time to consider changes to the THD district regulations.

In February, more restrictive THD regulations were adopted, and Caruso's rezoning application was subsequently rejected by the city's Planning Board.

With negotiations between Caruso and his neighbors still pending, the future redevelopment of the Coconut is again back in the commission's hands.

Coconut Inn in Pass-a-Grille awaits decision or another delay 08/20/11 [Last modified: Friday, August 19, 2011 4:39pm]
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