Connect with us

Place

St. Pete Beach redevelopment saga has another chapter

Mark Parker

Published

on

A beachfront view of the redevelopment project. Screengrab, city documents.

After an over 10-hour meeting that started Wednesday evening and ended early Thursday morning, St. Pete Beach City Commissioners came to a familiar conclusion – delaying a vote on a massive redevelopment project.

Mayor Adrian Petrila, at around 2 a.m. Thursday, said they should continue discussing the 13-acre Sirata Beach Resort’s controversial future at a Tuesday, Feb. 27, meeting. Kentucky-based Columbia Sussex bought the beachfront resort for $207 million in 2022 and unveiled extensive redevelopment plans in April 2023.

Petrila offered his motion after S. Elise Batsel, an attorney representing Columbia Sussex, said the firm could build a more expansive mixed-use development with hotels on the site under the Live Local Act. It allows developers to skirt local regulations if a project meets affordable and workforce housing criteria.

Petrila said commissioners have a “light schedule” Tuesday and could glean more information regarding the Live Local Act – which became law in June 2023. “No one’s going to be asking you (the developer) questions, so none of your experts have to be here,” he said.

After an exasperated laugh, Joe Yung, vice president of Columbia Sussex, said, “You just don’t want to decide, do you?”

“I’ve got a fortune sitting here,” Yung added. “And this is the second time I’ve had a fortune sitting here.”

The redevelopment would add two new hotels to the site, including a J.W. Marriott. Screengrab, city documents.

If approved, Columbia Sussex would build a 10-story, 290-room J.W. Marriott Hotel to the Sirata’s north and an eight-story, 130-room Hampton Inn to its south. The firm plans to demolish a six-story building with 156 units and upgrade the remaining resort, pool and restaurant.

Columbia Sussex also seeks approval to operate a rooftop bar and restaurant. Representatives pledged to strategically build two parking garages to mitigate congestion, increase setbacks between neighboring condominiums, provide two public beach access points and restore protective dunes.

Many stakeholders have heard those plans – and traffic, pedestrian, environmental and city character concerns – ad nauseum. The previous commission similarly deferred a Dec. 5 vote after that meeting ran late into the night due to an overabundance of public speakers vehemently opposed to the project.

However, the subsequent Jan. 10 hearing was postponed after every commissioner, sans the mayor, abruptly resigned before new financial reporting laws took effect. City officials filled the last vacancy Jan. 9.

City attorney Andrew Dickman agreed with Batsel’s assertion that proceeding with the Jan. 10 hearing “would be extremely prejudicial” amid the municipal government’s “unprecedented issues.” The newly established commission decided to revisit the matter Wednesday.

“I understand the frustration,” said Commissioner Nick Filtz to the development team. “You’ve been in this room before … I haven’t. So, that’s why we have these questions.”

The latest meeting provided a new twist in the ongoing saga. Columbia Sussex attorney George Vinci Jr. demanded that Petrila recuse himself from the hearing as he founded Protect St. Pete Beach.

However, Petrila asserted that the political action committee he once ran differed from the nonprofit offshoot that bears the same name. Protect St. Pete Beach has fought to block the redevelopment and filed a lawsuit accusing the city of improperly appointing new commissioners.

Vinci asked if Petrila had “no affiliation with that whatsoever.” He remained silent and continued to oversee the quasi-judicial hearing.

Mayor Adrian Petrila (center) denied allegations of “pervasive bias” at the Feb. 21-22 meeting. He and four new city commissioners will continue deliberations Tuesday, Feb. 27. Screengrab.

Columbia Sussex representatives said they have repeatedly attempted to appease local stakeholders. Batsel said the new city manager “squeezed” the development group for $500,000 that the city can use for transportation projects.

The redevelopment will feature rooms at various prices to promote “social equity.” Columbia Sussex agreed to double the required setbacks between the resort and the adjacent Seamark Condominiums.

Batsel said the Live Local Act would allow 975,000 square feet of development. The current proposal is 574,000 square feet. She said the developer could also decrease the proposed setback from 130 feet to 30 feet and increase building heights by three stories.

Multiple commissioners expressed unfamiliarity with the landmark legislation. The Live Local Act allows developers to build a mixed-use project according to maximum density allowances if 40% of its residential units are for those earning less than 120% of the area’s median income.

That is over $135,000 annually in St. Pete Beach. “When I say affordable, I don’t mean Section 8 housing,” Batsel said.

“This is not a Plan A, and it’s not what they (Columbia Sussex) want to do,” Batsel added. “But it’s important to understand the effect of your vote and what will go there if this isn’t approved.”

Dickman suggested that the commission punt the vote again and let staff “work out the numbers.” The meeting Tuesday is also set for 6 p.m. However, Petrila said it would not include public comment or expert testimony.

 

 

Continue Reading
3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Jacob Kay

    February 24, 2024at9:51 am

    Prime real estate and the revenues generated for the local businesses and area will have a much greater contribution to the community than the those that want to keep it for themselves. There’s no way to stop the forwarding of this project, only postpone it. It’s a beautiful beach and area and others should be able to come in to enjoy it regardless of how the selfish want to keep it all to themselves. Just make sure you include a provision to have ample parking and provides a decent wage and benefits to employees. Property ownership shouldn’t be impacted by those who don’t own it, if you want to stop growth then buy the property yourselves.

  2. Avatar

    Steve D

    February 24, 2024at9:00 am

    One way or another, this is going to happen. More will soon follow. Those who want to lock the doors need to face reality. If SPB residents and officials wanted to stop new development, they should have changed their legal plan (CDP) during the development moratorium imposed by their storm water and sewer consent order. They did not, so now the new development train has left the station.

  3. Avatar

    David Godshalk

    February 23, 2024at4:16 pm

    No,no,no,coastal pinellas county is busting at the seams,infrastructure can’t handle it anymore,locals need to be able run errands without it taking half a day

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By posting a comment, I have read, understand and agree to the Posting Guidelines.

The St. Pete Catalyst

The Catalyst honors its name by aggregating & curating the sparks that propel the St Pete engine.  It is a modern news platform, powered by community sourced content and augmented with directed coverage.  Bring your news, your perspective and your spark to the St Pete Catalyst and take your seat at the table.

Email us: spark@stpetecatalyst.com

Subscribe for Free

Share with friend

Enter the details of the person you want to share this article with.