CLEARWATER — East Shore Drive, north of the Clearwater Beach roundabout, is lined with quaint one- and two-story mom-and-pop motels offering cheap rooms and priceless memories.
But the landscape is about to change.
Despite protests from area residents and business owners, Clearwater's Community Development Board has given a collective thumbs-up for a seven-story hotel — a Courtyard by Marriott — to be built at the northeast corner of East Shore Drive and Papaya Street.
The 134-room hotel, as proposed, will feature tropical modern architecture, undulating rooflines, and a 6,500-square-foot restaurant on its lower level. Parking will make up the second and third levels. A 50-slip boat dock will be built, with 32 of the slips to be available to the public.
In addition, a publicly accessible boardwalk will run along the waterfront edge of the property, which overlooks Clearwater Harbor.
The development board made its decision Tuesday after hearing from the project's opponents.
Michael Foley, an attorney representing a neighboring property owner, argued that the new hotel would be disharmonious with the surrounding community's scale, density and character.
William Day, who owns the East Shore Resort, brought a video so the board could view his establishment, its fishing pier and the surrounding area.
"We're a neighborhood, not a tourist destination," he said, adding that visitors come to that area of the island "to escape from the big, tall Sandpearls and everything else."
He said he's in favor of redevelopment, but "let's do it without transferring density and ruining the economy of the neighborhood."
Linda Morton resides across the street from the proposed hotel and is concerned about the functionality of the boardwalk.
Beach by Design, Clearwater's blueprint for beach redevelopment, offers developers incentives like increased building heights in exchange for building public amenities such as a boardwalk for pedestrians.
But until other properties are redeveloped in the future, this will be the boardwalk to, well, nowhere.
"People will just have to turn around and go back," Morton said.
But she noted it would provide a way of seeing the water, "which we won't be able to see any more if that is built."
Nick Fritsch, chairman of the development board, said the hotel's height was not an issue according to guidelines set forth in Beach by Design.
"It's not happy news," he said addressing the property owners, "but you all stand to gain from this down the road as you decide what to do with your property."
Norma Carlough, a member of the board, put it succinctly.
"The era of mom-and-pop motels, as we all know, is over."
Correspondent Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.