MADEIRA BEACH — A legal challenge to the controversial Holiday Isles Marina multi-million-dollar hotel/condominium development project has been resolved, clearing the way for construction to begin in the months ahead.
An 11-hour marathon mediation in August ended in an agreement that reduces the scope of the project significantly, allowing the development, previously approved by the city, to move forward.
The project is on a 4.5-acre site at the southwestern base of the Tom Stuart Causeway bridge that has been vacant for years following the demolishing of the former Leverock's restaurant.
Since the development was first proposed more than a year ago, it — and another major hotel development along Madeira Way — became the focus of the ire of many residents who are concerned about over-development, high-rise buildings and traffic congestion.
After a call for a voter referendum on developments was rejected by the previous city commission, several residents filed suits against both projects, and hundreds of residents went to the polls to oust the mayor and two commissioners in the March municipal election.
Now, the Holiday Isles developer can begin the building process, including submitting a final site plan and applying for building permits.
Under the mediation agreement, since filed with Pinellas County, the project was reduced by more than half.
It now will include up to 130 hotel rooms, 41 residential dwellings, 12,000 square feet for retail stores and restaurants, and a marina.
The scope of the project is a significant reduction from original plans that called for 325 temporary lodging units in the hotels, 68 condominium units and 25,000 square feet of commercial space.
The hotel and condominium building heights were also cut from up to 10 stories to four and five stories.
"There are people who would have liked more of a reduction, but it is not an unreasonable settlement," Bill Gay, one of the plaintiffs, said Tuesday. "He obviously has right to develop his land."
Although the city was not a formal party to the settlement, Gay said Mayor Maggi Black, who attended the mediation, "was very supportive of reducing the hotel height."
According to the agreement, building wings facing the water will be no more than four stories tall over parking. The other wings can rise to five stories.
Tim Weber, the plaintiffs' attorney, described the settlement as "amicable".
Originally, the project was to be completed in phases with initial construction taking about 18 months to complete.
Gay said even though the project will be much smaller, it will still cause increased traffic, a major issue for many residents.
James Holton, whose family has owned the property for 50 years, could not be reached for comment.
Another group of residents is still contesting the second development project, Madeira Beach Town Center, that also was approved by the last commission.
That project, owned by Treasure Island developer Bill Karns, is located between 150th Avenue and Madeira Way, and along the north side of Madeira Way and 150th Avenue.
The Town Center would include two hotels, up to 11 stories tall, as well as two condominium buildings and a marina.
Acting City Manager Derryl O'Neal confirmed Tuesday that a mediation session for that project has been scheduled for October.