MADEIRA BEACH — The stage is set for a Wednesday vote that will help decide the fate of the long-delayed Schooner Resort redevelopment.
An agreement between the building’s developers and the city unanimously passed Madeira Beach’s planning commission on Monday, solidifying that the agreement meets the city’s existing land development. The Wednesday vote will determine if the city gives its stamp of approval to what could become the city’s tallest hotel, passing it through to its permitting stage.
The nine-story, 56-room proposed hotel, with a second-floor restaurant and a rooftop bar, would be developed next to a patch of condos on Gulf Boulevard overlooking the beach. The current Schooner Resort has 42 rooms.
Community Development Director Linda Portal presented bullet-pointed slides on a monitor, outlining the requirements that the development agreement would need to meet: the developers agree to protect natural resources, the building is consistent in height with other hotels in zoning categories, it provides adequate parking and maximizes land development while respecting its ecological surroundings, among others.
“We have to consider that the area currently is underdeveloped and poorly developed,” Portal said, citing the current building’s poor drainage, utilities and access from Gulf Boulevard. “All of those things threaten its current ecological and resource impacts. Those things can be resolved with new development as long as it adheres specifically to the development agreement.”
On Monday, resident Thresa Nelson emailed a petition signed by 184 residents and owners in Madeira Beach asking the commission to vote against the development. Two residents spoke in favor and five spoke against the agreement on Monday, raising concerns about parking spaces, noise ordinances, its impact on wildlife and the height of the nine-story development that would stand next to four- and five-story condos.
“I just don’t want to see another Caddy’s happening,” said resident Chuck Dillon.
“I don’t know that blasting live music from a rooftop bar is consistent with our community,” said resident Leslie Smith.
Several residents said they weren’t against development - or the redeveloped Schooner Resort - but that the contract needed tweaking.
Portal said after the public comment section that the parking is in line with the city’s area — and 40 percent extra parking is part of the proposal.
“You don’t want to turn the city into a big parking lot,” she said. With more parking and less retail space, she said, more people may come to the area just to park their car. Building inspections more frequently than one year would bring no value and “require hundreds of additional hours of staff time to review the whole thing from scratch from no different standards than we had before.”
She added that there’s little information on how the extra noise would affect sea turtles that hatch on the beach.
Residents have also noted that the traffic study conducted by the developer does not account for the second floors and rooftop restaurant. While presenting the plan, Katie Cole, of the law firm representing the developers, said the Florida Department of Transportation will conduct more thorough studies once the development reaches the permitting stages.
The city originally planned to vote on the development last month, but pushed the vote back until Monday because they failed to advertise the meeting. The developers - Jeff Beggins, of Madeira Beach, Jim Beggins and Kevin Bowden, who owns the nearby Cambria Hotel - first proposed a plan to redevelop the Schooner Resort in 2019, but for two years the project has been sent back, remodeled and delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
As the meeting continued after the vote passed, a group of residents stood in a semi-circle around the developer outside the council chambers, asking questions and raising concerns about the development.
Wednesday’s meeting will mark the seventh time the Schooner Resort is presented to city officials for review or discussion. It will be held at 6 p.m. in commission chambers.