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Frenchy's South Beach Cafe on Clearwater Beach is suing over a proposed hotel

The owner of Frenchy's South Beach Cafe on Clearwater Beach is filing suit over the proposed 7-story, 88-room Beachside Inn hotel that would partly surround it. [Behar/Peteranecz Architecture/Interiors]
The owner of Frenchy's South Beach Cafe on Clearwater Beach is filing suit over the proposed 7-story, 88-room Beachside Inn hotel that would partly surround it. [Behar/Peteranecz Architecture/Interiors]
Published Mar. 15, 2018

CLEARWATER — Typically, a new hotel with lots of hungry guests would be good for nearby restaurants. But the owner of Frenchy's South Beach Cafe isn't happy about a proposed 7-story, 88-room hotel that would partly surround it.

In a lawsuit against the City of Clearwater and the hotel's developer, Michael "Frenchy'' Preston, seeks to quash a city hearing officer's approval of the Beachwalk Inn — a project his attorney has called "totally inconsistent in size and bulk'' with the popular cafe.

Gulfview Lodging, LLP owns two parcels that wrap around the parcel underlying Frenchy's at 351 S. Gulf Boulevard. In February, the hearing officer approved Gulfview's plan to build its hotel on the two parcels plus an adjacent right-of-way owned by the city. Both the city council and the Community Development Board had previously okayed the plans.

But in his suit filed this month in Pinellas County Circuit Court, Preston alleges that city officials failed to disclose ahead of time that the city's 2,195-square-foot parcel was part of the project. He also claims that the hearing officer improperly approved Gulfview's plan without proof that the developer would get permission to include the city's parcel, whose addition accounted for eight of the 88 units.

The Beachwalk Inn project, which would contain almost three times the number of units technically allowed for its small site, is made possible by Clearwater's so-called "hotel density reserve.'' That is a pool of extra rooms created a decade ago that developers can draw from to expand their projects.

The incentive, aimed at encouraging development along what had been a sleepy stretch of beach, lured the Sand Pearl Resort, Hyatt Regency and Wyndham Grand Resort. But critics, including Frenchy's, say that dense development is crowding out other businesses.

Plans for the Beachwalk Inn call for an outdoor cafe, a rooftop swimming pool and moderately priced rooms. Neither Gulfview Lodging nor Preston could be reached for comment this morning.

Contact Susan Taylor Martin at smartin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate

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