TREASURE ISLAND — Developers of the vacant Buccaneer Motel property on Gulf Boulevard hope to persuade voters here to allow higher density development along the city's central beachfront.
Tuesday, the City Commission will consider the developer's offer to pay for hiring consultants to work with city officials, residents and business owners to develop a special plan for a 15-block area on the beach.
A new county ordinance allows local municipalities to increase density and building height for new hotels and motels in an effort to encourage development of transient lodging for tourists.
Such a move in Treasure Island would need a citywide referendum.
"We realize that we can pay for it and go all the way to the end and this community can still say no," said Al Cohen, who is representing the property owners.
During a workshop session earlier this month, the commission appeared split 3-2 in favor of Cohen's proposal.
Commissioner Ed Gayton Jr. was most strongly opposed, charging that the special plan would "back door" the voters' intent when the city charter was changed in 2002.
"I share the same concerns. This may not be a back door, but sure seems like a kitchen window approach," said Commissioner Alan Bildz.
City Manager Reid Silverboard stressed the proposed plan would closely involve city residents and would be subject to a referendum before it could go into effect.
"I would like to see this move forward," said Commissioner Bob Minning. "It makes sense to have a special area plan for central beach. I would love to see this move forward, go in front of voters and let them decide."
Mayor Mary Maloof and Commissioner Phil Collins also supported creating a special development district on the beach.
"Otherwise, we are going to have great views of the water from here on in. There will be nothing out there," said Maloof.
The proposed special development area would include the west side of Gulf Boulevard from 104th to 119th avenues, said Silverboard.
The city's current regulations have an upper limit of 50 transient units per acre. The county ordinance allows up to 100 units.
The property owners hope to develop the property as a boutique hotel that would include standard hotel rooms as well as hotel suites. Such a hotel must have a minimum of 130 units to be profitable, according to the owners. Only 77 would be allowed under current regulations.
Silverboard said the proposed hotel on the site might also require additional height to accommodate another parking floor.
If the commission accepts the owner's offer, the process to create a special area plan could take up to 18 months.
The commission is also interested in developing a new visioning plan for the city, provided an outside source of funding can be identified. The city last formally conducted a visioning process in 1998.
The 1.5-acre property, located at 10800 Gulf Blvd., has been vacant since the former Buccaneer Motel was demolished in 2005.
Last year, more code violations were cited for "building rubble, refuse, trash, junk and lumber" accumulated on the property. The owner at the time, TI Group Investments, was fined $500 a day, an amount that grew to $10,500 over a two-month period.
The property was eventually cleaned up, but the fines remained as a lien against the property.
Treasure Island Property Development, new owner of the property, paid $15,000 toward the lien and was forgiven the balance by the city.