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St. Pete Beach to consider letting hotels rebuild but not expand

Rezoning of the Coconut Inn was rejected in January. Owner Joe Caruso indicated in May that he plans to reapply.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times (2009)

Rezoning of the Coconut Inn was rejected in January. Owner Joe Caruso indicated in May that he plans to reapply.

ST. PETE BEACH — Pass-a-Grille's historic hotels should be able to rebuild, but not expand.

That was the conclusion reached by the city's Historic Preservation Board and Planning Board in a joint meeting Thursday.

And unless a majority of the 10 appointed board members have a change of heart, development director Karl Holley plans to forward the boards' recommendation to the City Commission this month.

"The consensus of the boards is that the preservation of existing small hotels is a valid public policy goal," Holley said Thursday. "But other issues, such as impacts on residential areas, must be given due consideration."

If the commission agrees, a proposed ordinance delineating the new development restrictions for the city's Traditional Hotel District will be sent back for at least one public hearing before the Planning Board. Two additional public hearings must also be held by the City Commission before the restrictions can go into effect.

The proposed THD changes would allow only those hotels that are in current operation to rebuild. Such redevelopment, whether voluntary or because of catastrophic damage, would be limited to existing height, density, and ancillary uses — such as swimming pools, spas, or other recreational structures.

"If you've got it now, you should be able to redevelop, but not expand the use," preservation board chairman Melinda Pletcher explained.

New structures would be restricted to the same physical building footprint and building height as now exists, except for any expansion required to meet FEMA flood elevations or other federal handicapped accessibility or state building requirements.

There are nine primary hotels in Pass-a-Grille that rent rooms to transient guests.

Currently, traditional hotel zoning must be requested and approved by the City Commission before a property has the right to rebuild at will.

The Gulf Way Inn and the Sable Palms Inn were granted THD zoning about a year ago, but so far have not submitted rebuilding plans to the city.

Other currently operating hotels in Pass-a-Grille include the Inn on the Beach, Coconut Inn, Castle Hotel, Island's Inn Resort, the Fairhaven Estate Bed and Breakfast, the Pass-a-Grille Beach Hotel and the Keystone Hotel.

Last year, the Coconut Inn applied for THD designation for both the existing hotel at 113 11th Ave. and for an adjacent vacant lot to the rear of the hotel.

The rezoning was rejected by the commission when people living nearby complained that an expanded hotel would intrude into their primarily residential neighborhood.

Coconut Inn owner Joe Caruso indicated in May that he plans to reapply for the rezoning — which prompted the commission to explore tightening the THD rules.

"If the hotels are not allowed to run competitively, they will disappear and the properties will become McMansions," Caruso told the commission in May.

St. Pete Beach to consider letting hotels rebuild but not expand 07/03/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 2, 2010 6:42pm]
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