MADEIRA BEACH — A new version of the long-planned beachfront Schooner Hotel project got unanimous approval at a Jan. 12 city commission meeting. It was the first reading of an ordinance to designate the project as a Planned Development (PD), which allows more height and density than would normally have been allowed in exchange for adding amenities that benefit the city.

The project replaces the aging hotel of the same name at Gulf Boulevard and 146th Avenue.

A previous version of the Schooner project already received approval as a PD in 2021. However, after the approval of the project a lawsuit was filed that challenged that approval.

In late 2021, architect John Bodziak and his team decided to start over with an improved design that addresses issues raised by the lawsuit as well as concerns of some residents.

Presentations were made at the commission meeting by attorney Katie Cole, representing the developer, and planner Jenny Rowan on behalf of the city of Madeira Beach.

Cole described how the project was scaled back. She said it was important to note that the developer “sincerely took to heart the comments received at the neighborhood meeting.”

“They removed an entire floor of the hotel. In our minds, they removed one-and-a-half floors,” Cole said, because there had been six floors of hotel rooms plus half of the roof level had hotel rooms, and that was reduced to five floors.

The rooftop design changed to position the lounge seating away from Gulf Boulevard. Also, Rowan said no amplified music will be allowed, and any music will be baffled so it projects only to the west, toward the beach, and not toward the properties to the north, south and east.

The three-level parking garage across the street will be smaller because of fewer ground-floor retail spaces, and “made more attractive with a nicer front, including more landscaping and a featured fountain,” said Rowan. There will also be a small park or green space as buffer between parking garage and the residential area.

Commission members appeared to be pleased with the changes and gave the new version a unanimous 5-0 approval. The Planning Commission also approved the project 5-0 two days earlier.

“I’m all in favor of approving this project,” said Mayor John Hendricks, who attended the meeting via Zoom.

Commissioner Helen “Happy” Price, who was chairing the meeting, said the new design has more greenery and fits in nicely with the surrounding area.

“It’s a new concept that looks really good,” Price said. “The parking garage looks terrific” and the hotel building is shorter and “much improved to look at.”

“I’m all for it,” said Price.

Commissioner Doug Andrews said the developers went back to the drawing board and listened to everything the neighbors said.

“They took in what the people said and came back with something that meets all the requirements,” Andrews said. “It’s good by me.”

While Commissioner Dave Hutson was favorable toward the project, he had concerns about parking spaces being enough for hotel guests plus employees and visitors.

Next steps in the approval process for the project include a second reading of the PD ordinance, approval of the Development Agreement, and other reviews by the state.

City to celebrate 75th anniversary

Robin Gomez, the recently hired city manager, said the city’s 75th Anniversary is this year, and “we will be celebrating all year long.”

He said the big event, which they are calling Founders Day, will be on May 5.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department asking for old photos.

“In an effort to property recognize the history of the city, we're searching for historical photos of Madeira Beach throughout the years. If you have pictures you would like to share with the city for use in our marketing materials and at different events, please email them to recreation@madeirabeachfl.gov. Please let us know when the picture was taken and by whom so we may properly credit them when used.”

Questions should be referred to the recreation department at 727-392-0665.