MADEIRA BEACH — Despite protests from more than 50 residents Monday night, the planning commission unanimously approved an $80 million development project that could add thousands of cars to daily traffic on the Tom Stuart Causeway.
But before the project can go forward, it also must receive the approval of the City Commission, as well as state and county regulatory agencies.
Only a handful of the residents who turned out for this second public hearing favored the proposed hotel, restaurant and condo complex.
Most residents were adamantly opposed, urging city officials to reject the project and slow the city's growth. They objected primarily to the likely additional traffic.
City Manager Shane Crawford set the meeting's tone: "This is a huge development and a gateway to Madeira Beach. This is a major issue."
Crawford reminded residents that the developer could opt out of the planned development agreement and build, without needing to seek city approval, a hotel or condominium or even industrial project that would be denser and create even more traffic than what developer James Holton is proposing.
The zoning on the 4.5 acres on the southeast side of 150th Avenue at the western base of the Tom Stuart Causeway bridge already allows a wide range of uses, including a marina with commercial docks and boat repair, boat storage, restaurant, hotel, retail, office, adult entertainment or residential as part of a mixed use.
The planned development agreement, which gives the city power to force changes in the project, is required because Holton is seeking to build a multi-use project.
After the first public hearing last month drew significant opposition, Crawford said his staff asked the developer to consider paring back the project.
That overture resulted in a two-floor reduction in height and a 16 percent cut in the number of hotel rooms.
"They have reduced the height and density. They heard you," Crawford said.
The revised proposal calls for some of the buildings to rise to a maximum of 93 feet (the equivalent of eight stories, including parking), instead of the originally proposed 117 feet.
In total, there would be 272 temporary lodging units in the hotels (a drop of 53 units), 68 condominium units and 18,000 square feet of commercial space, a reduction of 7,000 square feet.
The commission will vote on the project at its March 16 and April 12 meetings.