ST. PETE BEACH — Pass-a-Grille hotels would be barred from any rebuilding if city commissioners adopt a proposed rezoning moratorium when they take up the matter in May.
If enacted, the rebuilding ban would last for six months or until the city considers changing the rules for and/or boundaries of its traditional hotel overlay district, which currently includes tourist lodgings operating south of 15th Avenue.
There are nine operating hotels on the southern tip of the city that qualify for rezoning to the city's traditional hotel overlay district. Rezoning would allow most of them to rebuild to federal flood elevation requirements without losing their current lodging units.
The Gulf Way Inn and the Sable Palms Inn were granted traditional hotel district zoning about a year ago, but so far have not submitted rebuilding plans to the city.
Other eligible hotels include 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.
The latter two hotels are unlikely to apply for the rezoning because they currently exceed the maximum allowed 50 units per acre. If they rebuilt, they would lose lodging units, according to Community Development director Karl Holley.
In January, after a six-hour hearing where intense neighborhood objections were raised, the commission rejected a rezoning application from Coconut Inn at 113 11th Ave.
The 84-year-old Coconut Inn is located on a lot facing 11th Avenue. An empty lot directly behind the inn faces 12th Avenue, which is a residential street.
Commissioner Bev Garnett, who proposed the moratorium, confirmed that commission approval of a temporary rebuilding ban would block Coconut Inn owner Joe Caruso from reapplying for traditional hotel district designation in June. That is when the six-month waiting period between repeat rezoning applications expires.
Neighbors would raise similar opposition again, Garnett said, if the Coconut Inn proposal is revived.
"It's not just about the Coconut Inn, I just don't want a repeat of what happened last time," Garnett said.
She has asked City Attorney Mike Davis to draft a moratorium ordinance that she will present to the commission at a meeting in May. The exact date has yet to be set.
Garnett said the original intent of the traditional hotel overlay district was to allow aging hotels to rebuild.
"The commission created a new district so the city wouldn't have to take the height issue to the voters," Garnett said. "But if the Coconut is rebuilt, it will be upwards of 50 feet high. The residents will flip when they see how high it is."
Ironically, Garnett was a leading member of Save Our Little Village during its push for a referendum on the now-controversial comprehensive plan amendments that opponents said would allow tall hotels along Gulf Boulevard.
The voter-approved plan is now the subject of multiple lawsuits that so far have cost the city more than $300,000.
Garnett said she was being inconsistent with her former views.
"We are a unique little community down here. I want the commission to take another look at what we want for Pass-a-Grille," Garnett said.