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Sarasota Thursday, Jul. 22, 2010 7 years ago

Condos seek to shut out hotel

by: Robin Roy City Editor

After previous attempts to outlaw a proposed hotel in their neighborhood failed, residents along South Palm Avenue have proposed a different tack.

A group of 500 residents calling themselves the Coalition of Bayfront Citizens is asking the city to institute an overlay district on their properties from Ringling Boulevard to Mound Street.

The group is made up of condo owners from Embassy House, Essex House, Sarabande, Savoy on Palm, Palm Place, Royal St. Andrew and Tessara.

The overlay district would prohibit commercial development among the residential properties and create development requirements, such as height limitations and setback standards, at north and south ends of the neighborhood, where commercial already exists.

CBC members also hope that it would shut out the proposal for the Plaza Hotel or any similar commercial developments on South Palm Avenue.

“This is a mature neighborhood with narrow streets consisting of condos, townhomes and single-family homes,” said Harry Chororos, CBC vice president and Sarabande Condo Association president.

The CBC objects to the Plaza Hotel’s plan for fractional ownership, or timeshare. Boca Raton developer Al Hochstadt had planned a five-story, 173-room hotel at the corner of South Palm Avenue and Alderman Street. The city rejected his original plans in June 2008, because the majority of the guest rooms would have been weekly rentals — essentially timeshare units.

Hochstadt changed his plans in July 2008, to make a majority of the rooms traditional short-stay hotel rooms, and the city reversed its ruling.

“It’s a different kind of street — not one that lends itself to that kind of development,” said Chororos.

But two months ago, the developer sold two of his six lots being combined to make room for the hotel, and he now says construction is impossible on the remaining lots.

“The hotel can no longer be built,” said Hochstadt. “I don’t know why they’re still pursuing the overlay. I’m surprised they’re going through all of this.”

Chororos said the hotel proposal simply opened the eyes of property owners on South Palm Avenue to the type of development that could occur in their neighborhood and that the CBC will still seek an overlay district.

The group is also seeking a pubic-review process, in which the neighborhood can offer opinions about any future developments.

City staff is preparing an opinion on the proposal, which is scheduled to be presented to the commission for a decision in August or September.

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