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Plan to replace Cabana Club goes under the microscope

A rendering of the six-story, 38-room, Victorian-style hotel that Legg Mason Real Estate Investors plans to build on Sand Key at the existing site of Cabana Club.

Special to the Times

A rendering of the six-story, 38-room, Victorian-style hotel that Legg Mason Real Estate Investors plans to build on Sand Key at the existing site of Cabana Club.

Los Angeles-based Legg Mason Real Estate Investors has ambitious plans for the aging Cabana Club on the south end of Sand Key: Replace it with a 38-room, six-floor hotel and a restaurant. But when the city's Community Development Board makes a decision on the proposal at 1 p.m. Sept. 16, board members can expect a lot of opposition from beach residents. Opponents say the $14-million project will block views, encroach on the beach and create traffic problems. Legg Mason, which bought the club along with the Belleview Biltmore, says it won't.

The questionsLegg Mason, the investorsThe city staff reportThe opponents
Will there be enough parking?

Yes. A parking consultant determined that during the typical operation, 38 spaces would be needed for the project. In a peak period, 42 spaces would be needed. The project proposes to construct 56 spaces, which exceeds the demand for typical or peak periods. Valet parking will expand capacity to 67 cars. The city's code requires 38 spaces for the project and 56 spaces are provided; therefore, no variance is necessary for parking.Yes. The city requires one parking space per room and Legg Mason will provide 56 spaces. The restaurant is considered an "accessory" to the hotel, so additional parking for it is not required. Additionally, since the Belleview Biltmore is working in conjunction with the Cabana Club, the Biltmore will shuttle guests to the club. If the relationship between the two operations changes, then the city will review the parking situation.No. The size of the restaurant proposed by Legg Mason demands its own parking and under the City Code requires between 13 and 26 more spaces. Parking is already a problem today with a similar sized restaurant and no hotel.
Will it be too much development on the site?No. The design is less intense than the existing development on Sand Key. The Cabana Club is six floors in height over one floor of parking. At this size, the hotel is lower in height and intensity than all 20 condominium projects fronting on the Gulf of Mexico on Sand Key.No. The club is being built within the footprint of the current restaurant and pool. The northwest corner of the existing restaurant is at the coastal construction control line, often called the CCCL (a state established boundary that regulates how close structures can be to certain coastal waters), as are some nearby buildings. The report says Legg Mason is not asking for something inconsistent with surrounding area.Yes. The request for all of the deviations (lot width, three setbacks, height) from the city's regulations proves this. Legg Mason's application seeks approval of a hotel of the maximum density allowed (38 rooms) under the City's Code while at the same time including a restaurant that seats more than four times the number of hotel rooms. No other hotel on Sand Key or Clearwater Beach has a restaurant with a ratio that even reaches 1.5.
Does it fit with the neighborhood?Yes. Legg Mason believes that a small Victorian-style boutique hotel is the most compatible use with the surrounding condominium community. With the site's existing commercial zoning, there are many commercial uses that would be substantially more intensive than the proposed hotel and inconsistent with the existing condominiums of Sand Key. The project is architecturally compatible with the Cabana Club Condominiums to the north, which when originally constructed was a part of this site.Yes. The hotel fits in better than other commercial uses at this location, staffers say. The property is zoned commercial - not residential. Legg Mason is asking to have a use that is permitted in that zoning district. As for height? Staffers say it's also not inconsistent with the neighborhood as it's proposed to be the smallest building on Sand Key that fronts the Gulf of Mexico.No. We are not objecting to a restaurant or hotel because that is permitted under the city's zoning code. We are objecting to the size and bulk of the proposed plan because it requires a number of variances in order to fit onto the property. We are not anti-development. We encourage development, but within the present code.
Does this development establish a precedent of using the beach for development?No. Legg Mason does not propose to use any of the public beach for development. The project will be totally contained within our private property. Legg Mason will maintain the existing public access easement that runs next to the seawall for the entire beachfront width of the site, thus continuing to guarantee public access across the property.

No. The temporary cabanas are on the club's property. They are between the CCCL and the seawall, which is buried beneath the sand. The club also owns almost 60 feet beyond the seawall toward the water. But Legg Mason will need a permit from the Florida Department of Environment because small concrete "sleeves" will be built into the sand. These sleeves will hold the posts for the temporary cabanas.Yes. Based on discussions with the city, it is our understanding that Legg Mason's request to develop and use 25 feet of the beach as they plan, is unprecedented on Sand Key. This area of the beach is only 110 feet wide and 26 percent has eroded since 2006 when the beach last was renourished. That compares with 900 feet wide at the northern end where the Sheraton is located.

Plan to replace Cabana Club goes under the microscope 08/16/08 [Last modified: Sunday, August 17, 2008 7:11pm]
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