CLEARWATER — The City Council recently approved 27 additional hotel rooms for Decade Properties, giving the developer its blessing to build an eight-story hotel at Clearwater Point.
Robert L. Chapman, the lawyer representing residents fighting the hotel expansion, said after the vote that he will ask a judge to halt the awarding of the rooms.
In a 3-2 vote, with Mayor George Cretekos and Council member Bob Cundiff voting no, the council weighed residents' concerns the building would create noise, overcrowded streets, and other problems but in the end approved the project.
"It appears we have answered the major concerns that you have," Cretekos told the residents. "I have been agonizing over this."
In their fight against the hotel, hundreds of Clearwater Point residents signed petitions, sent hundreds of letters to the City Council, and showed up in force at council hearings.
Cundiff said the city's Beach by Design plan requires the City Council to "protect the integrity of stable residential neighborhoods on Clearwater Beach."
"I don't believe that a hotel of this size, it may be legal but it may not be right to build there," Cundiff said. "I agree with some of you who said that the best fit maybe would be another condo built on that site. I am going to stand with the overwhelming majority of the residents of that area and vote against adding the 27 extra rooms."
Council member Jay Polglaze said he made up his mind to approve the rooms after walking the neighborhood and reading "every single letter" from residents rejecting the hotel.
Noting that "the Chart House was in need of repair," Polglaze said he thought a newer structure would better serve the neighborhood. "The question was asked, 'If I lived out there, would I want that structure there. The answer to that question would be 'Yes.' I would want them as a neighbor," he said.
Chart House owner Jeffrey L. Keierleber wants to replace the smaller, boutique motel and put a larger hotel in its place. To build the 60-room hotel, Keierleber had asked the City Council at its Jan. 17 meeting to grant it the rooms from the city's Beach by Design hotel density reserve. He wants to add to those to the 33 rooms the Chart House already has, for a total of 60 rooms.
Led by Chapman, the residents argued that the larger hotel would destroy the personality of what they consider a serene and beautiful community. Chapman warned council members at the hearing that he will ask a state judge to intervene because their decision goes against the city's comprehensive plan.
Keierleber has sought to calm resident worries by promising to sign a development agreement that would bar the serving of food or liquor in the hotel, ban amplified music, and meet other residents' concerns.
Residents at the hearing expressed frustration after the vote.
"They made the decision to ruin the lives of a thousand people in favor of someone that already has almost 200 rooms on the beach," Clearwater Point resident Ilana Wechsler said. "It doesn't make any sense."
Her husband, Roberto, is not certain they'll continue the fight.
"I don't think we're going to appeal, to tell you the truth, because it would be too expensive for us," he said. "It already cost a lot of money for us.''