With a no vote from city planners, the developer of a 350-room resort can revise plans before a council vote.
By AARON SHAROCKMAN
Published October 20, 2004
CLEARWATER - The city's planning board was persuaded to vote against a 350-room beachfront resort Tuesday - by the developer himself.
Kiran C. Patel's Clearwater Beach resort proposal will still go before the City Council, where council members will ultimately decide the project's fate, perhaps as soon as next month.
But Patel's attorney recommended denying the development agreement in front of the Community Development Board.
It may have been the first time an applicant has opposed his own project, onlookers in council chambers said Tuesday.
But Pat O'Connor, an attorney for Patel, said it was necessary because Patel acquired the property and the accompanying agreement only a month ago.
O'Connor said he still needs time to negotiate the number of public parking spaces in the project and a pedestrian bridge to the beach, which city planners first supported, but now oppose.
"We inherited an incomplete document," said Ed Hooper, a consultant for Patel who also worked with the former owner, Tony Markopoulos, and until last month was the planning board chairman.
In the current development agreement, Patel has committed 15 parking spaces for public use. He has told the Times he would be willing to dedicate 100 spaces. O'Connor said what the project would actually entail is still being negotiated.
"It's a very big project," said O'Connor, who had already asked the development agreement discussion be delayed. "We've been investigating the details for 30 days. We don't feel comfortable with everything yet."
Patel purchased a 2.7-acre site south of the beach roundabout for $40-million from hotelier Tony Markopoulos Sept. 17.
For years, Markopoulos intended to turn the properties - several motels including the Days Inn - into an upscale resort.
Patel plans to finish Markopoulos' proposal, and said he intends to stick with Markopoulos' 350-hotel room, 75-condominium concept.
The site plan for the project was approved by the Community Development Board in August, though city planners said the design was too massive.
Tuesday, that same board unanimously recommended denying the development agreement, the legal contract that shadows the site plan.
"I think it's an incomplete development agreement," said acting Chairman John Doran, echoing O'Connor's public statements.
Board member David Gildersleeve, who voted against the hotel site plan in August, continued to question the resort.
"I don't support the underlying concept of the development," said Gildersleeve, who along with Alex Plisko, voted against the resort's design.
Two other luxury resorts are planned for the beach. One immediately to the south of Patel's project would be a 250-room condominium-hotel hybrid that will be a Hyatt. The other, on the north end of the beach, will be a 251-room hotel that takes the place of the landmark Clearwater Beach Hotel.
All three projects need City Council approval before construction can begin.