Tampa City Council heeds concerns from gated community, nixes hotel

Residents on the south end of Harbour Island said the proposed 150-room hotel would threaten their quality of life.
Harbour Island residents who live behind private gates successfully lobbied Tampa City Council Thursday to reject a proposed hotel at the gates of their residential neighborhood.
Harbour Island residents who live behind private gates successfully lobbied Tampa City Council Thursday to reject a proposed hotel at the gates of their residential neighborhood. [ © C2 DESIGN GROUP INC | Jones Lang LaSalle ]
Published May 13, 2022|Updated May 13, 2022

TAMPA — Harbour Island residents packed City Council chambers for nearly four hours Thursday evening as the fate of a proposed hotel near their gated community hung in the balance.

In the end, council member Charlie Miranda’s expressed opposition to a proposed 12-story Marriott AC brand hotel because he said it would be located too near residential neighborhoods brought a cheer, gaveled down by Chairperson Joseph Citro.

If approved, Miranda said, “This will start, in my opinion, a possible domino effect of these buildings south of Knight’s Run Avenue.”

Knight’s Run Avenue is near where the gates are located that separate the residential part of the island from the commercial.

Miranda’s argument carried the day. Council members voted 4-2 to deny the rezoning and land-use requests. Citro, Guido Maniscalco and Orlando Gudes voted with Miranda. Luis Viera and Lynn Hurtak voted no. Bill Carlson was absent.

Hurtak said she understood residents’ concerns. but noted there was no city staff opposition and the city’s land-use plan allowed hotels in that area.

Santiago Corrado, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, said the 150-room boutique hotel was needed to satisfy growing demand downtown for hotel rooms.

“Thirty years ago, this was what was envisioned: hotel capacity for the Convention Center,” Corrado said.

But a large group of residents organized in opposition to that vision. For nearly three hours, dozens of residents urged council members to deep-six the plan. They said the hotel wasn’t actually a luxury brand and it would bring more traffic and non-residents to the brink of their gated community, where homes often list in the millions.

“That is what they’re proposing to bring to our gates. The ComicCon people, the Metrocon people, you know, all the conventioneers, they’re proposing to bring to our gate, to what is the front door of our homes,” said Fran Lavandera, who has lived on island for 30 years and is president of the Harbour Island Condominium Association.

Attorney Jacob Cremer, representing the developer — Liberty Hospitality Management, LCC — portrayed the affluent island, developed in the early 1980s, as divided between the bustling northern tip, across from Amalie Arena, home to bars and hotels, and those who live “behind the gates” on the southern, residential side.

No one disagreed with him.

Harbour Island, Cremer said, was a “functional extension of downtown,” and the residential character of the southern side exists only because it hadn’t developed as densely as originally anticipated.

This isn’t the first time that Harbour Island residents have battled City Hall and won. In 2018, the administration of then-mayor Bob Buckhorn tried to replace an aging sewage main pipe on the island before backing down amid a community backlash.

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