Monday, May 21, 2018
News Roundup

Spat between Clearwater Beach developers to be decided by City Council

CLEARWATER — Developer Uday Lele's boom-years dream of a baroque condo tower — a vision of architectural optimism on Clearwater Beach he called "Enchantment" — has been reincarnated in more modest form: a 14-story hotel tower called "the Views."

But the plan for the 202-room hotel, which would replace the six-story, 110-room Wyndham Garden at 691 S Gulfview Blvd., has irked the neighboring property owners to the south, developers Ocean Properties and JMC Communities.

Those developers say they have a new plan for their mostly vacant, more than 4 acres bordering the Sand Key Bridge — an update to Marquesas, a mega-condo project they proposed in the mid 2000s but didn't build.

So far, they've kept those new plans under wraps, but they told the City Council at a meeting earlier this month that Lele's hotel plans would hurt their project.

The City Council is scheduled to vote tonight on a 10-year development agreement with Lele's company, Enchantment LLC.

Lele's representatives, Brian Aungst Jr. and state Rep. Ed Hooper, say JMC and Ocean Properties are just upset they were beaten to the punch. They might decide to pitch a hotel, a condo tower, even an amusement park, quipped Hooper, but they haven't announced anything concrete.

"How long are we going to wait? Why should you penalize my client who has an application before you?" Aungst said.

The vote comes after city planners appear to have diffused the major point of contention: JMC and Ocean Properties' claim that Lele's tower would prevent them from building more than one tower on their Marquesas site under Beach By Design, a city code that regulates development on Clearwater Beach.

However, city planners modeled the project and found that even with Lele's project, at least two towers could be built on the 4.3-acre Marquesas property.

But that wasn't the only complaint from Ocean Properties and JMC. At a meeting earlier this month, they described the Views as ugly, speculative and unfairly grabbing too many rooms from the city's hotel density pool.

Ocean Properties owns and manages more than 100 hotels in the United States and Canada, owns a 50 percent stake in the Sand Pearl Resort and plans to develop the former Adam's Mark resort site on the west side of S Gulfview.

The tower proposed by Lele would "adversely impact" plans that Ocean Properties expects to unveil within three months, said Mark Walsh, an Ocean Properties vice president.

"If I had come here five years ago and seen a lot of that, we wouldn't be investing," Walsh said.

Another heavyweight, JMC Communities of St. Petersburg led by J. Michael Cheezem, the force behind the Sand Pearl and Belle Harbor developments on Clearwater Beach, also objected at the meeting.

Cheezem told the council that "quality wins in the long run" and asked council members to vote down Lele's proposal.

If the council approves the development agreement, Lele's project will proceed to the Community Development Board for approval.

This is the first beach development to come before the City Council since it revamped its review procedures earlier this year.

Now, the council gets the first look at a development in two public hearings. Previously, the council got the final say on large-scale projects.

Council members voted to change the process after they rejected a proposed Hampton Inn on which the developer had already invested $170,000 in design costs, raising howls among beach developers.

Charlie Frago can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4159. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago.

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