A schematic design depicts the proposed Belleview Biltmore Cabana Club in the Sand Key area.
CLEARWATER – Five Sand Key-area residents are hoping that the third time is the charm.
After losing at Clearwater’s Community Development Board and in an administrative hearing, they have filed an action in hopes that a three-judge panel from the 6th Judicial Circuit will prevent the owners of the Cabana Club from building a six-story, 38-room Victorian-style “boutique hotel” and a new, 165-seat restaurant on the land that they lease for their current restaurant.
The residents, all members of the Save Our Neighborhood organization, say that the site is too small for the proposed structures and will cause parking problems in the surrounding neighborhood. They have hired attorney Alan Zimmet to represent them, and Zimmet feels that his clients have a good chance of blocking the project.
“I’m very optimistic that the three circuit judges will be willing to follow the law and deny the owners’ request,” Zimmet said.
Cynthia Remley, an attorney and Sand Key activist, agrees.
“They have a good chance of winning because this goes before three neutral judges, unlike an administrative judge employed by the state and paid for by the city,” she said.
The Cabana Club is owned by Los Angeles-based Legg Mason Real Estate Investors, which also owns the Belleview Biltmore Resort & Spa in Belleair and runs a shuttle bus between the two facilities to alleviate the parking problem.
The main question, according to Remley, is whether the new restaurant will be an “accessory use” of either the new hotel or the Belleview Biltmore, as the city claims it is. By definition, Remley said, an accessory facility must serve the primary facility and be adjacent to it. Therefore, the restaurant can’t be an accessory of the Belleview Biltmore, which is six miles away by road and nearly two miles away as the crow flies.
A restaurant that is accessory to a hotel normally has one seat for each hotel room, she added, but the new restaurant will have four seats for each room in the new hotel and therefore does not meet the definition of an accessory use.
“There is no zoning issue on this piece of property,” Remley said.
Instead, she added, the city is ignoring “numerous and grievous violations” of its own code by allowing a building that violates height and setback restrictions and has only 56 parking spaces when the code calls for 113.
Belleview Biltmore Spokeswoman Amy McGuire feels that the city should welcome the project because it will provide both temporary construction jobs and permanent jobs in the restaurant and hotel.
“The positive side of this project is that it has a lot of support at all levels,” McGuire said. “Everybody is committed to seeing it become a reality.”
Nobody knows exactly how long it will take for the court to issue its final ruling.
“Depending on the first few steps, it could be six to eight months,” McGuire said.