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Lawsuit delays plans by Pass-a-Grille Yacht Club

The Hurricane Restaurant owner says more traffic and noise would ensue.

By NICK JOHNSON
Published May 6, 2007


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ST. PETE BEACH - The Pass-a-Grille Yacht Club is planning a new clubhouse that has been met with opposition by the city and some neighbors.

The city approved the yacht club's plans in January and gave the needed permits, but the project has been stymied by a lawsuit filed against the city in March by Bruno Falkenstein, owner of the Hurricane Restaurant.

Falkenstein, who lives down the street from the yacht club, thinks the new building will bring more traffic, noise and pollution to the neighborhood.

"All I'm looking for is the same thing anyone else would want, and that's less commercial intrusion into a residential area, " Falkenstein said.

Bill Neuens, the yacht club's vice commodore, said the new building won't cause any problems for the surrounding neighborhood.

"All we're trying to do is build a prettier, newer building, with the same membership, so as far as noise or traffic, it won't be an issue, " he said.

Karl Holley, director of the Community Development Department, said the concerns of Falkenstein and other residents are legitimate.

"We did not make a recommendation on the rezoning or the land-use change, but we did point out a number of issues, including traffic and parking that would be significant impacts, " Holley said.

The planned three-story clubhouse would be nearly twice the size of the current one-story building and would have a little more space for parking. It would also provide members with amenities that the current building lacks, including a fitness center and chart room.

Holley said the lawsuit indicates a divide that sometimes exists in the beach community between those who want to make improvements and those who fear that changes will harm their quality of life.

When no compromise is met through City Council meetings or other avenues, the issues get hashed out in court.

"Mr. Falkenstein is certainly well within his rights both as a citizen and a reasonable person to pursue remedy within the courts, " Holley said.

While the lawsuit is pending, the yacht club is hesitant to begin construction. Neuens said the club has lost more than 30 percent of its members because of the delay in building the clubhouse. He hopes membership will return to about 450 when the construction is done.

"We're waiting to see where it's going. We may or may not wait until the lawsuit pans out, " Neuens said. "The lawsuit is not stopping us from building."

Nick Johnson can be reached at nickjohnson@sptimes.com or 893-8675.

[Last modified May 5, 2007, 18:24:59]


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