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Condo project given 90 days

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Most Community Development Board members agree that 75 feet is too tall, but the developer gets more time to fine-tune the project. By MEGAN SCOTT Published April 21, 2004

CLEARWATER – The developer of a proposed 75-foot-high condominium on the east side of Edgewater Drive is going back to the drawing board for the second time.

After a three-hour hearing on Tuesday, Top Flight Development was granted 90 days to revise a proposal to build the L-shaped condominium on the site of the existing Bay Queen and Edgewater motels. The decision came after several board members and residents voiced concerns over the height.

“This is not a defeat,” said Dan Dennehy, who owns the motels and is a principal with Top Flight Development. “I just hope that our professionals are given the appropriate amount of time to come back with something that is more sensitive. Ultimately what gets built will be the best thing.”

It was the second time residents packed the council chambers for a Community Development Board hearing. The board granted the developers a continuance last month so they could revise the plan.

Developers used the month to make changes such as a 6-foot-high barrier wall from Sunnydale Drive to Sunset Point Road, increasing parking from 1.5 to 1.7 spaces per unit and making an opening off the Sunnydale Drive entrance only. They even stair-stepped the building so all of it wouldn’t be 75-feet high.

Residents opposing the project used their month to design a Web site, create a logo and set up a hotline opposing the development.

On Tuesday, Rick Porraro stood outside Clearwater City Hall with a bag of fans in one hand and a bunch of white T-shirts draped over his arm. Both the fans and T-shirts bore the face of a smiling sun holding a sign that read “No Tall Condos!”

Residents waited more than an hour to speak, some clapping and cheering when board members questioned the architect about the proposed development. Some were so fired up that Chairman Ed Hooper had to stop the hearing to ask them to quiet their outbursts.

When it came time for them to have their say, they lined up.

“The proposed building’s sole purpose is to place more residents stacked atop each other overlooking the water to maximize profits to the transitional developer,” said Jason Kuehn, a member of the residents’ Edgewater Preservation Project. “That’s at the expense of all the existing families already living in the neighborhood.”

The motels are in a tourism district where the height of buildings is limited to 35 feet. Developers can seek permission from the planning department to build at 50 feet. A shorter building, however, would mean that large oak trees estimated to be more than 100 years old would have to be cut down in order to maintain the complex at 77 units.

Most of the residents said they want to see some kind of development on Edgewater. But they are concerned about the increase in traffic, loss of privacy and noise that such a tall building would generate. They also complain that the condominium would block their views of the water and limit their sunsets.

“I feel it is too high and entirely too large for our neighborhood,” said Velma Andrews, who has been a resident since the 1970s. “It will only be a short time before Edgewater Drive is another Sand Key.”

In the end, most of the board agreed with the residents: The building was too tall.

But before a vote could be taken, developers requested more time to revise the plan.

“I would like to see a condominium development in that location,” said Shirley Moran, a community development board member. “I think it would tie in with the neighborhood. But I have a problem with the height. I think it’s out of character for the area.”

At least two board members were in support of the proposed condominium because it is more aesthetically pleasing than a flat, box-shaped condominium.

And there were residents present who supported the plan.

One woman had so much to say that when the buzzer rang signaling the end of her three minutes, she asked if she could have her husband’s three minutes. Her husband was not present at the hearing.

“I would much rather have permanent residents than to have transient residents,” said Janet Gray, an Edgewater resident. “The way the plan is maintains some of the natural beauty of the area.”

Mary Kate Belniak considered the continuance a minor victory. She said her organization will continue meeting over the next 90 days.

“We haven’t been discredited completely,” she said. “We would have liked them to say no all the way around. We’re willing to look at the revised plan.’

Dennehy is unsure what kind of changes the architect will make to the plan. The complex is a mix of condo units and a couple of townhomes that will start around $450,000. He says support for the project will only increase.

“The responsibility of this board is to make sure the best buildings get built in the city of Clearwater,” he said. “Ultimately that’s what will happen.”


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