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Dunedin city advisers quit over motel rebuff

Two members of a citizens' board that advises commissioners on redevelopment have resigned, saying commissioners should not have denied the Jamaica Inn motel's plans to expand. Dan Massaro, chairman of the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) advisory board, and member Pat McGarr, who also is executive director of the city's Chamber of Commerce, said last week's 3-2 vote against the expansion sent a bad message to developers.

"We're talking major construction that did not violate any building codes," Massaro, who designs and builds banks, said Monday. "It would have brought people downtown year after year. The message being sent to anyone contemplating downtown development is that it's a disaster."

Commissioners at a meeting last Thursday denied owner Peter Kreuziger's request to build a five-story, 50-foot-high addition to the motel on Marina Plaza, an addition that would cost more than $1-million. Commissioners had approved a preliminary site plan last year, but Kreuziger, who also owns the Bon Appetit restaurant at the motel, was told that he would have to fulfill several requirements before getting final approval.

He repositioned the building to include a 25-foot setback, a 40-foot right of way on Victoria Drive and provided for more parking. City Attorney John Hubbard said commissioners had no choice but to approve the expansion.

But commissioners Paul Braun, Mary Bonner and John Doglione voted against the expansion after some residents of Victoria Drive said that the 40-foot right of way belonged to them and that they did not want the motel to expand. Mayor Manuel Koutsourais and Commissioner Tom Anderson voted for the project. Bonner and Doglione are new to the commission.

Braun and Doglione could not be reached for comment Monday evening. Bonner said plans for redevelopment will keep moving forward.

"If the Jamaica Inn itself has not revitalized downtown, why would 32 rooms do it?" she said. "Some people's desires make them believe things can happen."

But Koutsourais and Anderson said developers now will be wary of investing in Dunedin.

"It's heartbreaking for those who really wanted to see things happen," Koutsourais said. "I would hope the commission doesn't make mistakes to compensate for this wrong."

In resigning, McGarr said she was tired of commissioners rejecting the advice of the CRA advisory board.

"I resent the fact that after so many volunteer hours on the part of many, in one short commission meeting, those in authority could destroy efforts of many years," she wrote in a letter to the city. "Had the commission had a valid reason, it would have been understandable."

Bob Tharin, a retired real-estate agent who is on the advisory board, said he is sorry Massaro and McGarr resigned. But he's staying, he said.

"I feel ignored every now and then," he said. "But if I had my way all the time, they'd have to rename the city Robert Tharin City."

This is not Kreuziger's first dispute with the city. Two years ago, he objected to the city's plan to expand its municipal pier because, he said, it would have been impossible for Bon Appetit's boat to back out of its slip. The issue was put on hold for a while because of a dispute about ownership of the submerged land under the restaurant's docks. The pier will be expanded as part of marina improvements, Koutsourais said.

R. Carlton Ward, Kreuziger's attorney, said his client is considering suing or repositioning the motel building so the right of way won't be an issue.

"The resignations are indicative of the community support that's behind this project," he said.