PAT COPELAND | SUN
From left, architect Steven Smith talks about the
project’s coastal design as Mainsail President
Joe Collier waits to speak.
HOLMES BEACH – All eyes were on Commissioner Marvin Grossman, who made the deciding vote to allow the Mainsail development discussion to continue to March 26, at last week’s public hearing.
Commissioners called the hearing to decide whether “to consider amending by establishing a termination date or terminating the special exception and site plan approval” for the project at the corner of Marina and Gulf drives, which began as the Tidemark development in 2001.
City Attorney Patricia Petruff said when the project was first suggested it was controversial and generated numerous pubic hearings and comment.
“It was approved in 2001 by a resolution that granted a special exception and a site plan approval,” Petruff explained. “The resolution contained a lot of conditions, and the site plan that was approved was an integral part of the project.”
Between 2001 and 2012, 20 permits were issued, she said, for projects including a marina and sales office, dock work, fencing, signs, a seawall and a foundation and boat lifts. In addition, the developer leases a portion of submerged land along Marina Drive from the city in order to accommodate the docks.
“While we have technical violations of the city code, in that permits weren’t issued within six months of the special exception, the city arguably waived that by continuing to issue permits,” she said.
Joe Collier, president of Mainsail Lodging and Development Company, said it was formed in 1998 and projects include the Mainsail Hotel and Convention Center in Tampa and Scrub Island Resort in the British Virgin Islands, in addition to the Beach Inn in Holmes Beach.
Collier said he wanted people “to get a sense for the fact that this project is in good hands from an artisan standpoint” and said they sought out the architect because of his previous projects.
“We’re new to the game here,” Collier pointed out. “There’s been a parade of folks who owned this project and tried to pull something off. We’re different from those guys and don’t want to be lumped into that group.”
He said as the team worked with the site plan, they found that some aspects did not work, but they had to use the existing footers. Changes included decreasing the number of units from 40 to 37 and lowering the height of the lodge from three to two stories. He said the company has a lease with Wells Fargo for parking and would be willing to help revitalize that corner area.
Development Manager Brian Check said they hope to be significantly under way by midsummer.
“I would love to talk about ideas with the city commission to make it a great project, but if there’s the mentality of trying to revoke our site plan, we’d have to go down a different path, and we don’t want to do that,” Collier said.
“We’re not some sharks out of New York. We don’t want to build something that we’re not going to be proud of. I just bought a house here and plan to retire here.”
Commissioner David Zaccagnino asked if they would work with the city’s special requests, and Collier said they would as long as “it’s not costing us hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Commissioner Judy Titsworth said the use has changed and added, “Now it’s a hotel. I feel it adds more noise and congestion.”
Collier responded, “ “It’s designed for commercial lodging. With the zoning we have, you can’t live there. You can only stay there for a short period of time.”
Petruff confirmed, “In C-3 zoning in the special use resolution, the lodging units are limited to transient guests of no more than 120 days.
“No residential use shall be allowed on site. I agree with Mr. Collier; it was never meant to be an owner occupied condo.”
Chair Jean Peelen asked if there would be a minimum night stay, and Collier said no. Grossman asked the size of the units, and Collier said they are two and three bedrooms.
“The units are huge and don’t really lend themselves because of our pricing to one night stays,” Collier replied. “It’s cost prohibitive. This is meant to be a very high end place.”
Mayor Carmel Monti said he wants to see a build out plan with time frames. Collier said his team could meet with the building department and develop a schedule.
Site plan issues
“I’m disappointed that nothing was brought to the city until tonight, and we’re supposed to act at this public hearing,” Titsworth said. “You’re trying to use somebody else’s site plan.”
Collier said his team had multiple meetings with former Public Works Supervisor Joe Duennes to discuss the site plan and have explained details of the project to commissioners.
“In terms of disappointing, there were times when it would have been nice for someone to pick up the phone and call me,” Collier stressed. “The first time I heard about any concern, was when I got a phone call from the newspaper reporter.
“From an economic standpoint, a headline that says ‘H.B. seeks to revoke Mainsail site plan’ without a call to the property owner, I can tell you what that has done to the valuation of my property. It’s treacherous ground.
“I think we’re ready to do the positive and right thing for the city and make something everybody’s proud of.”
“I agree with you,” Monti said. “We get hammered all the time in the press with things that aren’t true; that are taken out of context.
“Nobody that I know ever said anything about revocation of a permit. How that ended up in the newspaper, I don’t know.”
However, Peelen corrected Monti and said, “In defense of the newspapers, the headline was there after we voted to have a pubic hearing and the purpose of a public hearing was to revoke a permit.”
Commissioner Pat Morton said the previous administration did not share project information with the current administration and commissioners want to see the project plans for themselves.
Collier said he provided updated site plans prior to the meeting, and the original site plans are still in the building department.
The public weighs in
“I have supported this since day 1 because I felt tourists need to be in the commercial area,” Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said, stressing that she was speaking as a resident.
Mainsail partner Ed Chiles said the project is right for the site because it reflects the quality of life and low-rise character of the Island.
“We need revitalization in Holmes Beach, and this is the spot for it,” he continued. “I’m willing to put my money in this project, and I'm proud of this project.”
Dan Howe, who was involved in a lawsuit against the city over the original project approval, said the city shouldn’t allow the site plan to be modified. Petruff said there is no application to modify the site plan.
Resident Lance Spotts, who was involved in the lawsuit with Howe, said, “It looks very nice on paper, but I see five buildings crammed into that little space with all those people and all those parking spaces. I’d love to see it happen the right way.”
Fishing guide Justin Moore, who has his boat at the Mainsail marina, said, “I think this project would be a great thing for the Island. There’s going to be some change, but these guys are willing to keep the Island atmosphere.”
Planning Commission Chair Sue Normand said she was prepared to say the project should not move forward, but after hearing the presentation, she said she felt it would work in the C-3 district, but the site plan should be revisited.
Zaccagnino asked Normand if an Econo Lodge could be built there, and she said yes, and she added that a bowling alley or large marina also could be built there.
Hugh Holmes, Sr. said he was impressed with the presentation, but the project “is the wrong thing for the location. I looked over the site plan, and there are many violations of the building and zoning codes.”
Collier stressed that the company must follow the building codes, and Petruff added, “We need to be very cautious about trying to talk about how this project did or did not comply with the land development code.”
Motion to revoke
Titsworth made a motion to revoke Resolution 01-03, the special exception and site plan approval, and said, “It’s giving us a chance to look at it again. We need to do this for the community.”
Morton seconded it.
Zaccagnino argued to continue the public hearing so the developers can work with the city.
Peelen said she did not agree with revoking the site plan and that the intention of the public hearing was “to get their attention and get them moving.”
Monti advocated working with the developers to get a build out plan with specific milestones and tie in the whole corner area.
“I’m listening to both sides, and I’ve heard some comments that bring up serious concerns in my head,” Grossman said. “I would like more time to look at it.”
Peelen asked if Titsworth wanted to amend her motion, and she declined. Peelen called for the vote, which was 3-2 against the motion.
Zaccagnino made a motion to continue it to March 26, and Peelen passed the gavel to Titsworth and seconded the motion, which was approved unanimously.
Petruff said the next step is for the building department to meet with Mainsail representatives to compare site plans and review other issues.