Vol 7 No. 37 - June 6, 2007

Developers get earful at board hearing

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – A large resort project with plans that include purchasing a street from the city and installing traffic calming at the S curve on Gulf Drive got a frosty reception at a planning and zoning board meeting last week.

In addition, board members appeared to be upset that they were reviewing the proposal at all, since it was not complete, saying any indication from them that the project was viable could open them to a liability claim if it turns out to be otherwise.

In the end, the developers decided to withdraw their project for now and possibly pursue it later without the board’s input.

The plan involves three current resorts, Seaside Inn, a 10-unit beachfront resort at 2200 Gulf Drive; Sunset Beach Motel, a 14-unit property at 2201 Gulf Drive, across the street from the beach, and Tropic Isle, a 23-unit resort at 101 22nd St.

The developers proposed that the city vacate 22nd Street from Avenue C to Gulf Drive and sell it to them at market value. The street runs between Tropic Isle and Sunset Beach Motel, and they would block it from public use and remove the building setbacks at they pertain to the street, allowing for more use. In turn, the developers would deed to the city some property on the beach that is currently zoned preservation. They would, however, retain perpetual, non-exclusive rights to use the beach property with beach chairs, tables small watercraft and storage to be left on the beach. Other parts of the proposal include the developer receiving all relevant tax credits for transferring the beach property. The developer would also incorporate two regular and two handicapped parking spaces in the development for public use.

Building Official Steve Gilbert said the meeting was intended to give the board a say in how the city directs the development of the project.

"This is not a formal development yet, but a working document," he said. "What we’re probably looking at is a planned unit development with special exceptions."

Gilbert said he could not recommend vacating 22nd Street. He also said the developers recommend the city not collect permit fees, "But I’m not going to allow it."

As for the traffic calming on Gulf Drive, he said there would be some construction impact there if the project proceeds.

Board member Ernest Clay, a retired architect, took exception with several parts of the proposal.

"I’m not in favor of vacating any property to a developer, especially when the developer gets to keep the right to develop it," he said. "There is no plan for safety on the S curve. Traffic calming would be more like traffic congestion if they use a stoplight there. They’re seeking perpetual development rights and the right to use the land they are granting to the city and by letting them take tax credits for granting the land to the city is just adding to their profit."

Clay took an overall look at the proposal.

"Conceptually, combining all three properties is a bad idea," he said. "Combining the two properties on the east side of Gulf Drive is a good idea."
Developer attorney David Rosenberg said that there were no plans to put a stop light at tbe S curve. He said they might want to put up yellow flashing lights and asked the board for suggestions.

"My suggestion is to combine the two properties on the east side," Clay reiterated.

Developer Chuck Maddon said they would prefer putting flashing lights several blocks from the S curve that would be enacted by pedestrians to warn drivers of the street crossing. He also said that they felt 22nd Street has limited use by the public.

"I use it," Clay said. "We already have two speed bumps on Avenue C so it would add to our problems in getting to Gulf Drive."

Board member Joanne Meilner felt that the beachfront property would not meet the 50-foot erosion control line setback.

"I also see a lot of benefit for the builders, but not the city," she said.

After more debate, the board appeared ready to render a recommendation when Rosenberg said they would withdraw their offer and come back later.

At that point, Clay criticized Gilbert for bringing the incomplete project to the board, saying they did not see plans that were approved by him and giving any indication that a project could succeed off of incomplete plans would leave the door open to liability later.

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