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    Motel owner sues city to block Marriott resort

    Tony Markopoulos, who filed the suit, wants a big resort, too, but hasn't been able to get it okayed.

    By CHRISTINA HEADRICK

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 3, 2001


    CLEARWATER -- Beach hotelier Tony Markopoulos has filed a lawsuit to block the creation of a 250-room Marriott Seashell Resort next door to Markopoulos' beach motels.

    The lawsuit asks a Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court judge to void the City Commission's March decision to approve the new resort on the 200 and 300 blocks of S Gulfview Boulevard.

    The 48-page complaint -- filed Friday and delivered to the city with two thick, bound volumes of exhibits -- alleges numerous violations of Markopoulos' "due process" rights as the city fast-tracked approval of the new resort.

    City Attorney Pam Akin said Monday that the city disagrees with arguments made in the lawsuit. City Planning Director Ralph Stone said that the city is comfortable with the process that has been followed in approving the new resort.

    Neither Markopoulos' attorney, Gordon Schiff, nor Bill Kimpton, the Clearwater attorney who put together the deal for the Seashell resort, could be reached for comment.

    Markopoulos had his own dreams of redeveloping as much as 3 acres of his beach properties into a huge, new resort, but he hasn't been able to work out a proposal that is acceptable to city planners.

    Richard Gehring, one of the planners affiliated with the Seashell deal, has suggested Markopoulos' trying to block the resort was a case of sour grapes.

    Among the many allegations in the lawsuit was that complete copies of the resort's development agreement were not provided to the public in time to comment about it. The agreement was being negotiated until shortly before the commission gave it final approval.

    In addition, the lawsuit alleges the city's approval violates rules limiting the Seashell to only 65 hotel units -- as opposed to 250.

    The city still has to seek county and state approval for the additional units. Markopoulos' lawsuit alleges the city should have had the additional units okayed before approving the hotel's development.

    The lawsuit also says the city's approval of the hotel, which will require giving Kimpton's company part of Gulfview Boulevard and Third Street, violates a city law that states no right of way that allows people access to the beach may be vacated.

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