CLEARWATER — Edgewater neighborhood residents hope to halt the construction of a large condo building they believe will block views of St. John’s Sound on the coast road to Dunedin.
The city’s Community Development Board will decide June 18 whether to allow Valor Capital CEO Moises Agami’s seven-story condominium building at the corner of Edgewater Drive and Sunset Point Road, but the president of the Edgewater Drive Neighborhood Association, who is also an emergency dispatcher with Pinellas County 911, is raising alarms over the proposal.
“We’re very much an old Florida neighborhood, that’s why people enjoy living in our neighborhood,” neighborhood association President Kate Belniak said. “Other tall buildings will ruin the community feel.”
The situation isn’t that clear cut, however. Valor Capital believes it has standing to build along Edgewater Drive because the land is zoned Tourist. In fact, the CDB can point to motels that once stood in the neighborhood if it gives developers the go-ahead.
The entire neighborhood — including the 3-acre site where the 86-foot-tall condos could be built — is zoned Tourist, a designation that allows the construction of hotels and motels. In fact, two mom-and-pop motels once operated in the neighborhood and a 35-foot-tall Comfort Suites at 1941 Edgewater Drive still takes in guests every night.
The Tourist zoning of the neighborhood is an outlier, Belniak argued, and said the city should have reverted the area to Residential zoning once the older motels were razed, she said.
“If you were to look at a zoning map of the city of Clearwater, there are only two properties in Clearwater zoned Tourist that are not on the beach, Belniak said. “Our neighborhood is one of them.”
Valor Capital, which includes Agami’s two sons, has asked the city for permission to make their building at least 86 feet tall, which exceeds the nearby Comfort Suites, the neighborhood association argued.
“We are not against development as long as it is reasonable development,” a protest flier from the association states. “We feel that the Comfort Suites at 35 feet is reasonable and is the benchmark for the developer to follow.”
The Edgewater neighborhood association also believes the condo project fails to meet several CDB conditions, including that new construction must be in “harmony with the scale, bulk, coverage, density and character of adjacent properties,” Belniak said. She also worries the new residents will increase traffic. “If each condo unit has two cars, that’s 160 new cars without changes to the streets and roads,” she said. “Congestion on Edgewater Drive is like a parade route already.”
Alan McDonnell, the project’s architect, has been the contact person for Edgewater residents concerned about the size and scope of the building’s impact. He has met with residents several times since January. He said that he has reduced the height from 10 stories to seven stories, thickened the landscaping and has redesigned the road entrances to the condo property to reduce traffic stress. He also has changed the building’s footprint to reduce obstruction to water views.
Residents remain energized and plan to oppose the project at the June 25 CDB meeting, which is 1 p.m. in the Main Library in Clearwater.
“We’ve been organizing our neighbors, going door-to-door with fliers, holding monthly association meetings, and writing letters to the CDB. We’ve held rallies making our wishes known,” Belniak said.