Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Owner of Pass-a-Grille's Coconut Inn to sue St. Pete Beach over rezoning denial

ST. PETE BEACH — Coconut Inn owner Joe Caruso, rejected multiple times by the city for Traditional Hotel District zoning for his Pass-a-Grille hotel, is now taking his fight to court.

"I truly feel I was not treated fairly," Caruso said Thursday. "It is a matter of principle."

Caruso calls the commission a "kangaroo court" that has a "lynch mob mentality."

He is basing his lawsuit primarily on constitutional issues, citing the commission's alleged "irrational and arbitrary conduct" that his attorney Jackson Bowman says violates both the Florida and U.S. constitutions.

Caruso is asking the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court to invalidate the City Commission's action turning down his request for rezoning and land use change and to authorize a jury trial that could award damages of more than $15,000.

Caruso bought the former Leroy Hotel at 113 11th Ave. in 2008 as the city was creating the then-new zoning district with the goal of preserving small hotels on historic Pass-a-Grille at the southern tip of the city.

Traditional Hotel District rezoning lets property owners rebuild regardless of whether there is a catastrophic loss and retain use as a hotel. Without the rezoning, a hotel could revert to single-family use.

In the final version of the new district, the Coconut Inn was eligible for rezoning.

In 2009, several other hotel properties were given Traditional Hotel District zoning. Caruso also applied for the designation for his renovated Coconut Inn.

Unlike the other hotels, the Coconut Inn is on an interior street surrounded by mostly single-family residences.

Many of those homeowners are against the rezoning, and the commission twice rejected Caruso's rezoning application, once in January 2010 and most recently in August.

At the time, Commissioner Bev Garnett, who represents Pass-a-Grille, summed up the commission's action this way:

"This has been a terrible, terrible event to happen in our quiet little community. This has been 2 1/2 years of neighbor against neighbor."

Now the city must defend its decision in court.

Owner of Pass-a-Grille's Coconut Inn to sue St. Pete Beach over rezoning denial 10/15/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 14, 2011 4:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Harvey regenerates into tropical depression, sets aim on Texas coastline

    Hurricanes

    The system moving toward Texas has regenerated into Tropical Depression Harvey, prompting storm surge and hurricane watches on portions of the Lone Star State's coast, according to the National Hurricane …

    [National Hurricane Center]
  2. Top things to do in Tampa Bay this week: SNL's Pete Davidson, Rodeo Fest, Disney Halloween party

    Events

    USF ROUND-UP: Pete Davidson

    Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson will headline this year's University of South Florida Round-Up Comedy Show, a back-to-school tradition at USF. Davidson revealed in March the reason he had "kinda been missing" for a spell last season on SNL was …

    Characters parade down Main Street, U.S.A in Mickey’s Boo-to You Halloween Parade during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom.
  3. In honor of Ed Sheeran's Tampa show, 5 more underrated redheads

    Music & Concerts

    “Is Ed Sheeran sexy?"

    Jay Cridlin, our pop music/culture critic, was on the phone with singer James Blunt, who is opening for Sheeran at Amalie Arena on Tuesday. But Jay could have been talking to anyone.

    Eddie Redmayne
  4. Plant City farmer hopes robot pickers can save strawberry industry from shrinking labor force

    Agriculture

    PLANT CITY — If current trends continue, the region's status as a major strawberry producer will depend in large part on what happens in Mexico.

    Strawberry pickers work during the daytime, when fruit is more likely to bruise. Machine pickers can work at night. The owner of Wish Farms in Plant City is developing automated pickers and hopes to see them at work on a widespread basis in five years. [Times file]
  5. Charlie Crist asking local youth for advice on how to stop deadly car theft epidemic

    Public Safety

    ST. PETERSBURG — U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is meeting with local children Wednesday night to get their thoughts on how to stop the deadly juvenile auto theft epidemic plaguing Pinellas County.

    From left: St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Congressman Charlie Crist, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway during a meeting earlier this year to discuss the car theft epidemic among Pinellas youth. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]