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Despite density, development okay

(ran East, Beach, South editions)

In the eyes of the law, redevelopment of the controversial LaPlaya apartment complex in Redington Beach can go forward.

And after Circuit Judge James R. Case ruled Wednesday, rumors began to fly through the town that the property had been sold. But LaPlaya attorney Jawdet Rubaii said Thursday that no final sale has occurred, adding that he could not "confirm or deny" that a contract for sale has been signed.

"Something big is going to happen soon," he said. "I think the town will be amazed and surprised at how fast this is going to move."

Both Rubaii and Redington Beach attorney Dominic Amadio expressed relief that the eight-year legal wrangle over the LaPlaya site is over.

A rental complex that was built in the 1950s now occupies the beachfront site on Gulf Boulevard, across from 164th Avenue. Earlier, Rubaii indicated the rental apartments would be torn down and a luxury condominium complex built in its stead.

In signing a final judgment Wednesday, Case certified an agreement reached the previous week between the Redington Beach Town Commission and LaPlaya. That agreement stipulated that the LaPlaya complex was grandfathered for higher density development than is currently allowed by town codes.

Judge Case also wrote that he found "independently" of the settlement agreement that the LaPlaya property has "vested rights" to a development density of 30 units per acre based on preliminary site plans filed with the town before a voter referendum changed the maximum density to 15 units per acre.

Since that referendum and the subsequent refusal by the town to allow development at any density greater than 15 units per acre, the LaPlaya owners, B&H Travel Corp., have fought the issue in several court actions.

During debate over a proposed settlement, a strong but unsuccessful effort was made by some residents and commissioners to impose a time limit on construction at the higher density.

The development is expected to generate an additional $70,000 in property tax revenues for the cash-strapped town.

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