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Suncoast Fire District sues hotel over unpaid impact fees

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — An Indian Rocks Beach resort may not be able to house guests in its almost finished addition if it continues to refuse to pay the entirety of its nearly $222,000 fire impact fee.

The Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District is suing the Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites Clearwater Beach South Harbourside hotel's owners, Decade Properties, to "recover unpaid impact fees."

The complaint is a result of continued disagreements between the fire district and the corporation over unpaid fees for the addition.

"We have not received the impact fees … and so this is unfortunately where it's ended up," Suncoast fire chief Salvatore D'Angelo said.

Jeffrey Keierleber, president of Decade Properties, could not be reached for comment.

The property acquisition company looked at building the addition as early as Oct. 31, 2008, according to the district's complaint. At that time, it was given an impact fee estimate of about $187,000, based on the district's rule of $1 per square foot.

But the hotel's owners were not satisfied with that number. In May 2011, Keierleber met with then-Fire Chief Robert Polk to discuss the charges. Polk retired July 4, 2014, and D'Angelo took over as fire chief soon after.

Communication appeared to come to a standstill until last October, when the district sent Keierleber three invoices with an increased bill of $211,000, including fees for an entryway and pool equipment room.

Decade Properties did not pay after those messages.

In March, the district threatened Decade Properties with legal action if the fees remained unpaid.

In response, Decade Properties paid about $5,000, essentially covering the entryway and pool equipment room. The district returned the company's check, refusing to accept a partial payment.

The building is nearing completion.

But the addition will not be issued a certificate of occupancy until the fire district signs off on the building, according to Florida law. This means that while construction may be finished, no one can occupy the space until the fire district and Decade Properties resolve their dispute.

Contact Elizabeth Djinis at edjinis@tampabay.com or (727)-893-8913. Follow @djinisinabottle.

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