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City says hotel must follow rules

If city violations are not corrected, the Carol Ann Condo Hotel in Treasure Island faces fines of $250 per violation per day.

By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 23, 2001


TREASURE ISLAND -- The newly built Carol Ann Condo Hotel on Gulf Boulevard is operating illegally and is facing potentially stiff fines if city code violations are not corrected within the next 30 days.

"We want them to succeed, but they must comply with our codes," City Manager Chuck Coward said Tuesday. "This whole thing has started quite a fluff in town."

For the past two months, the hotel has become a headache for everyone concerned -- from the City Commission and city administration to its owner and contractor.

After city inspectors approved the final building permit inspections in mid-March, the hotel opened its doors a few weeks later for business.

That was problem No. 1. It seems the hotel did not have a certificate of occupancy -- a document required before anyone can live in or use a newly constructed building.

Then the complaints started.

Residents said minimal landscaping made the building look like a "hospital."

A guest party from Indiana e-mailed their dissatisfaction to the city, to the Better Business Bureau, to area chambers of commerce, and to local media. The hotel apparently never informed the Tracy Phillips family that active construction was still underway when they arrived at the Carol Ann for their late March vacation.

When the city confirmed in early April that the Carol Ann was illegally open for business, it discovered a few other problems as well:

The hotel was not paying for city utilities, including sewer or trash collection.

No occupational license had been applied for or granted.

The original site plan approved by the city had been changed without notification -- most noticeably by eliminating and downgrading landscaping, failing to install water-pervious concrete in the parking area, and illegally enclosing a ground-level portion of the building to create a storage room.

"At the end, they just started doing whatever they felt like doing," said Coward. "When we raised questions, they seemed oblivious until we advised them we would go to court. That seemed to get their attention."

Owner John Keporos and his contractor, CoyleCo Inc., were formally cited for a number of code violations last week and could face fines of $250 per violation per day beginning Friday, according to Coward.

"He told me he didn't know why the city was so upset and that he has spent a lot of money on the building," Coward said, adding that Keporos variously claimed he "didn't know he needed" or "assumed" he had a certificate of occupancy.

Coward said he is "80 percent confident" that Keporos will bring the building into compliance. Fines will be delayed if the owner brings the city a new landscaping contract and continues its current demolition of the impervious concrete and the storage room.

Keporos told the Times Monday that he will bring the Carol Ann Condo Hotel into full compliance with city codes.

"This is the first time I have built something like this. I've got my life savings in this thing. I understood from my contractor that we were verbally given a partial permit to operate. I relied on him and it was a bad decision on my part. It's been a nightmare and I am doing the best that I can."

The contractor was unavailable for comment.

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