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Plan to restrict Pass-a-Grille hotels gets wider hearing

ST. PETE BEACH — If some residents of Pass-a-Grille have their way, new and stricter regulations will allow only a few hotels to rebuild.

The debate brewing over redevelopment of the city's historic district at the southern end of the island has become testier now that a group of residents has developed an eight-point plan to limit hotel redevelopment.

Bob Fernandez, speaking on behalf of the group that met informally last weekend, said neighbors want any hotel redevelopment restricted to those that "currently have boots on the ground."

Further, hotels should be no taller than 32 feet or two floors over parking, he said. Rooftop pools, decks or other uses, as well as any related commercial uses, such as bars or clubs, would be prohibited.

Any expansion of hotels deeper into residential areas should be banned, Fernandez said, and the city should require redeveloped buildings to meet strict design guidelines and to buffer structures and parking from adjacent residences.

The group's concerns were voiced to elected officials during a workshop Thursday.

"The residents of Pass-a-Grille have been able to stand up and say, 'We want to save these hotels, but there are limits we want to put on them,' " city Commissioner Beverly Garnett said at the end of the nearly three-hour meeting.

There are nine operating hotels in Pass-a-Grille.

The Gulf Way Inn and the Sable Palms Inn were granted Traditional Hotel District zoning about a year ago but have not submitted rebuilding plans to the city.

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

"Thirty years ago, city planners wanted Pass-a-Grille to be totally residential and made the hotels nonconforming. But over the years, residents decided they like the (mixed-use) character," Garnett said.

If the commission would adopt the proposed regulations, residents "would be protected from further expansion (of hotels) into the residential core," Fernandez said.

At least one hotel, the Coconut Inn, wants to be able to rebuild at will. Its rezoning application for THD designation was strongly opposed by residents and rejected by the commission in January. Owner Joe Caruso says he plans to reapply in June.

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

The Coconut Inn is at 113 11th Ave., an interior street, and backs on to a residential street. Caruso wants to be able to use the undeveloped rear portion of the property to rebuild.

Garnett, who opposes the Coconut Inn rezoning, says she is not targeting Caruso's 84-year-old inn but is reflecting concerns by Pass-a-Grille residents over commercial intrusions into primarily residential neighborhoods.

Garnett originally called for a six-month moratorium that would block any hotel rezoning applications.

At its regular meeting Tuesday, the commission is expected to draft a formal list of concerns and issues to be reviewed by the Planning Board and the Historic Board.

City Manager Mike Bonfield said Friday that he expects changes to the Traditional Hotel Overlay District that are recommended by the two boards to be taken up by the commission this summer for final consideration.

Plan to restrict Pass-a-Grille hotels gets wider hearing 05/22/10 [Last modified: Friday, May 21, 2010 5:03pm]
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