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Huge projects face key vote in Madeira Beach

Published May 5, 2016

MADEIRA BEACH — Two controversial redevelopment projects that would bring multiple high-rise hotels, condominiums, retail and restaurant space and marinas to the downtown core will be voted on by the City Commission on Tuesday.

If approved, the total value of the two projects is estimated at near $200 million and would bring thousands of new property tax dollars to the city coffers, as well as stimulate area businesses, officials say.

Final votes on the two proposals, dubbed the "Holton" and "Town Center" projects, will be taken on June 14.

The commission must approve rezoning both projects to Planned Development and approve the actual development agreements that set the parameters and requirements for the projects to go forward.

The Holton project has already received initial approval of the City Commission, but two more votes are required: a second vote on the rezoning on Tuesday and a third vote on a revised development agreement on June 14.

Both projects have received the support of the city's planning commission, most recently last week when the Town Center project was unanimously approved.

Meanwhile, residents concerned about increased traffic and building heights and density and are hoping to dissuade officials from approving the projects.

They have regularly filled the commission chambers with their protests, some threatening to retaliate at the ballot box next election, and two filing a lawsuit challenging the city's development rules.

Other residents and business owners strongly support the projects.

The 4.5-acre Holton project, on the southeast side of 150th Avenue at the western base of the Tom Stuart Causeway bridge (the now vacant site of the former Leverock's restaurant), would include: a multistory hotel and condo hotel, with the two providing a total of 272 lodging units, as well as 68 condominium units, 18,000 square feet of commercial space including a 200-seat restaurant, and a marina with 38 boat slips.

At the request of the city, the project developers reduced the maximum height of the Holton project hotels from 10 to eight stories. The revised proposal calls for buildings to rise to a maximum of 93 feet (the equivalent of eight stories including parking), instead of the originally proposed 117 feet.

Tuesday will be the first time the City Commission has reviewed the Town Center project, in the city's downtown commercial district bounded by Gulf Boulevard, 150th Avenue and Madeira Way.

The developer, Bill Karns, has assembled 21 parcels in order to build two 11-story hotels, two eight-story condominium buildings, 50,000 square feet of commercial and restaurant space, and a 43-slip marina.

The Town Center would also include a half-acre public plaza at the intersection of Gulf Boulevard and 150th Avenue and a landscaped green space leading to the marina, and a 12-foot-wide pedestrian and bicycle trail connecting Madeira Way to the Causeway Park.

Much of the opposition for the Town Center project has focused on the ability of existing condominium owners on the south side of 150th Avenue being able to safely exit and enter their complexes.

Larry Roloff, president of the Madeira Cove Condominium Association, told the planning commission last week that he, with city officials and the developer, have approached the state Department of Transportation about installing a new traffic light on 150th, a state road.

"If we don't get a traffic signal to be shared with our neighboring communities (adjacent condominiums), traffic accident and pedestrian deaths will be a certainty," Roloff said. "We cannot allow people to get killed in order to get a traffic signal."

So far, the DOT is not willing to install a traffic light unless hard evidence of a safety issue can be provided, according to Roloff.