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 — Commissioners decided to play hardball with developers of the first major hotel to be proposed in St. Pete Beach in at least five years, The Miramar Beach Resort at 4200 Gulf Blvd.

In November 2014, the city was placed under a consent order by the state Department of Environmental Protection for what was seen as its inadequate sewage system. A city study indicated its existing sewer system was operating at above capacity in critical locations. In 2016 the city adopted a moratorium to prevent new development or redevelopment that would increase sewer flow until additional capacity was provided to help ensure sewer overflows do not occur.

The hotelier purchased the property in 2017 and waited to submit plans to the city until the construction started on sewer system improvements, so project completion can coincide with a hookup to the city’s new infrastructure.

During a special City Commission meeting Feb. 10, Community Development Director Wesley Wright explained Miramar Beach Resort developers are requesting approval to demolish an existing 27-room motel built in 1953 and redevelop the 1.15-acre site with construction of a 7-story, 54-room luxury boutique hotel. Its amenities include a second-floor indoor-outdoor dining room and bar area, and a rooftop restaurant, lounge and pool.

According to a report presented by Wright, the maximum height of the proposed structure is 76 feet. The request requires a conditional use permit for the hotel to exceed 50 feet in height and allocation of 15 units from the Boutique Hotel District Density Pool, along with permission for rooftop dining.

Wright told commissioners “staff finds the project, as presented on the 30,000-square-foot lot, does fit within the goals and objectives of the Comprehensive Plan with the 54 units proposed.”

Two residents who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting praised the project, especially its plan to improve beach access.

While city staff reported the proposed development meets requirements of the Comprehensive Plan, Land Development Code and 18 provisions suggested by Community Development, commissioners were not satisfied and asked for project conditions to be scrutinized more intensely by city staff.

Commissioners asked staff to provide additional proof that several conditions in the agreement would be met, such as Commissioner Ward Friszolowski’s request to ensure that the developer provides high-quality foliage on the property, rather than just meeting minimum standards of the landscaping code.

He also asked for assurance sand dunes on the hotel’s beach front will be protected.

Kevin Bowden, Miramar managing partner, assured commissioners that sand dunes and sea oats on the property would be preserved.

“We’ll make sure we’ll build a hotel you can be proud of,” he told commissioners. He explained his company recently opened the 5-story Cambria Hotel at 15015 Madeira Way in Madeira Beach, with a rooftop bar amenity that presents acoustic music and has not received any noise complaints.

Even though the hotelier said the facility will utilize valet parking and have ample space if a variance is approved, commissioners pressed the developer on whether it will be sufficient.

Bowden added onsite valet parking should be sufficient to handle the expected number of visitors and if it’s not he will be looking for property upon which to provide offsite valet parking.

Commissioner Melinda Pletcher asked the developer, “Can you build the hotel without the parking and height variances, or use of the density pool? Can the property develop without the variance?”

Bowden responded he could not without the number of units being requested. The number of units are needed to make the project financially viable, he said.

Pletcher also inquired about the need for 60 seats in a rooftop lounge and 100 seats in a restaurant and lounge on the second floor, adding “it will be a big driver for additional parking needs.”

Bowden responded, “It’s going to be a very expensive site to build on. Our goal is to be a boutique hotel and garner some really good rates. We need a rooftop bar and pool and second floor bar. We don’t want to tell our neighbors the amenities are for hotel guests only.”

A resolution authorizing redevelopment of the Miramar Resort at a height greater than 50 feet and density greater than 30 units per acre, including 15 units from the Boutique Hotel District Density Pool and rooftop bar, passed unanimously on first reading.

A second reading of the resolution and first reading of an ordinance amending the Comprehensive Plan to allocate 15 units of lodging density in the Boutique District will be heard at the March 9 City Commission meeting.