Proposed hotel project draws scrutiny, but gets initial nod from St. Pete Beach leaders

Developers are proposing to build a resort at 4200 Gulf Blvd. in St. Pete Beach. If and when it opens, it would be the first new hotel in the city since the Florida Department of Environmental Protection forced St. Pete Beach to enact a building moratorium six years ago.

ST. PETE BEACH — The Dunes Condominium Association has filed a lawsuit against St. Pete Beach to invalidate a resolution passed by the City Commission on April 27 that granted the proposed Miramar Resort conditional use to construct a 7-story, 54-room resort hotel.

The Dunes association petitioned the court for the issuance of a writ of certiorari to quash the city’s resolution, which granted the developer a conditional use for its site plan.

The attorney for the condo association, Robert L. Chapman of Weber, Crabb and Wein, told the 6th Judicial Pinellas Appellate Court “in approving the Resolution, the City departed from the essential requirements of law and approved the Resolution without the support of competent, substantial evidence in approving an application that did not comply with the requirements in the City's Code.”

The lawsuit takes exception with the way the city calculated off-site parking requirements “and floor area calculations necessitated by the City's Code.”

In addition, it asserts the city also violated procedures for commissioners declaring if they had any communication with anyone about the development project before the hearing, called ex parte communication, noting commissioners did not disclose the identity of those individuals or the content of the communications.

The complaint states that “while several commissioners disclosed that they had one or more ex parte communications, not a single commissioner disclosed the identity of the person they spoke with ex parte, nor the substance of the communication.”

The Miramar developer plans to demolish the existing 27-room Miramar Beach Motel, constructed on the site in 1953, to build the resort hotel.

The reimagined and recreated Miramar will include many in-house amenities, including a fitness center, indoor and outdoor dining on its main floor, and a rooftop pool and lounge.

It would be the first major development since the city enacted a moratorium on new development that would burden the city’s already-overtaxed sewer system. A major sewer project is underway and the developers expect to receive a certificate of occupancy at the same time the city project is completed.

In an amended petition filed July 8, attorney Chapman noted an initial conditional use application filed on Nov. 9, 2020, contained a variance request for off-site valet parking and a December 2020 staff report noted the need for off-site valet parking to accommodate the requested number of hotel units and amenity space.

At the Feb. 10, 2021, commission hearing where the first reading of the conditional use resolution took place, Commissioner Melinda Pletcher questioned the developer as to whether the project would be feasible without a rooftop lounge and pool that initiated the need for off-site valet parking. Pletcher voiced concern over the use of off-site parking. At that meeting, city staff said they would work with the developer to address the concern over off-site parking.

At the second reading for the conditional use on April 27, Wesley Wright, community development director, said the developer revised the site plan to include additional on-site parking spaces.

Wright told commissioners the request for an off-site parking variance has been withdrawn. He explained it has been determined “additional on-site parking is only required for the density and intensity increase of the redevelopment over that of the existing site. The existing Miramar Beach Resort provides for 18 parking spaces. The increased density and intensity that is proposed with the redevelopment site requires an additional 46 parking spaces for a total of 64 parking spaces. A total of 64 parking spaces are proposed and a variance is not required.”

However, in the complaint, the attorney for the Dunes Condominium Association contends the applicant's and city’s revised parking tabulations failed to allocate any square footage related to parking “for either the large rooftop pool or outdoor dining and drinking area, or the outdoor dining and drinking on Level 1 lobby amenity.”

The complaint states, “Zero square footage is allocated to the roof level pool amenity and only 6,790 square feet are allocated for Level 1 lobby amenity. The 6,790 square feet includes only the indoor portion of Level 1 and, again, allocates zero square footage to the outdoor dining and drinking area on Level 1.”

In addition, the lawsuit states, “the Applicant failed to submit a signed and sealed survey or proof of ownership,” as required by the city. “Therefore, the City Commissioners failed to consider a complete application. Because a full and complete application was not submitted, the City's approval of the Resolution was not supported by competent, substantial evidence.”

City Attorney Andrew Dickman did not respond to several emails asking the city to address items in the lawsuit.