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Published Oct. 26, 2008

Two hotels that were familiar sights on Clearwater Beach, the Adams Mark and the Spyglass Resort, got knocked down to make way for major new projects.

Both of those projects won approval Tuesday from the city's Community Development Board, but you can probably expect to see one of them under construction much sooner than the other.

On the old Adams Mark property, Ocean Properties, an international hotel developer and manager that operates more than 100 hotels, intends to build a 15-story, 230-room hotel on the site with a restaurant, bar, ballroom and five-story garage. That may happen relatively soon.

But on the Spyglass property, a megaproject called the Clearwater Beach Resort & Hotel is facing delays because of the weak economy.

"It's very difficult to say when it will begin. The economic times are challenging," said Dr. Kiran Patel, the Tampa entrepreneur and philanthropist who's building the $250-million project. "We'd like to start tomorrow, but we just have to wait until the market conditions make it possible."

Next month, Patel and his partners will ask the Clearwater City Council to give them an extension on their deadline to start construction. In return, city officials may require them to spruce up the temporary parking lot that's there in the meantime.

"Right now it's a dirt lot. It's on a pretty prominent part of BeachWalk, and it's an eyesore," Mayor Frank Hibbard said. He and other officials would prefer to see a paved, landscaped lot similar to the city lot at Pier 60 nearby.

Patel said that he's willing to cooperate with the city.

Mike Brassfield, Times staff writer


Wal-Mart struggle forSupercenter hits bump

Wal-Mart is facing more hoops to jump through if it wants to build a store on the Anclote River.

The retail giant suffered another setback when city commissioners decided in a 3-2 vote Tuesday that the project's concurrency certificate had expired. The certificate is required to assure that infrastructure such as roads and sewers can handle the development.

That means Wal-Mart could be forced to do more impact studies, go through another concurrency review and appear at more site plan hearings. The company also could take the matter to court and ask a judge to interpret the legal documents now at the heart of the controversy.

City staff and Wal-Mart argued that city commissioners extended the life of the project's certificate to 10 years in January 2005 when they approved the original site plan and development agreement. Mayor Beverley Billiris and Commissioner Chris Alahouzos agreed.

But Vice Mayor Robin Saenger and City Commissioners Peter Dalacos and Susan Slattery said the development agreement wasn't clear on that point.

Representatives of Concerned Citizens of Tarpon Springs, which opposes the project, have long said they believed the one-year certificate expired in January 2006.

"Thank God logic prevailed here," said Jane West, an attorney for Concerned Citizens.

Wal-Mart spokesperson Quenta Vettel said company officials would consider their next move. "We're disappointed. We feel this project has been held hostage for the citizens of Tarpon Springs," Vettel said.

Rita Farlow, Times staff writer


Boy recovering from bite of pygmy rattler

Jacob Gehlsen was playing in flip-flops at a friend's house on the edge of Brooker Creek Preserve recently when he stepped in a hole and felt a slight sting - like a twig stabbing the instep of his left foot.

But this was no twig. It was a pygmy rattlesnake.

Usually measuring less than 18 inches long, the pygmy rattler is quick to strike, producing pain and swelling that usually subsides in a couple of days. No deaths have been recorded, but it certainly hurts.

Jacob, 9, collapsed in agony within 10 feet. Then his foot started to swell and still no one knew what had happened. Paramedics arrived in less than five minutes and recognized the injury as a snake bite. Jacob was transported to Mease Countryside Hospital.

Several hours later, he was taken to All Children's Hospital and admitted into the intensive care unit, where doctors determined he needed antivenin.

A couple of days later, he was discharged and went home, where he has a new nickname.

"We call him "Jake the Snake,''' said Wally Gehlsen, 55, Jacob's father.

But Jake the Snake has to follow a new rule these days. No more flip-flops in rattler territory.

Eileen Schulte, Times staff writer