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Commission To Revisit Hotel Zoning Ordinance

Oakbrook Plaza
A proposed ordinance could pave the way for a hotel being built at the Oakbrook Plaza in Safety Harbor.

The Safety Harbor City Commission decided on Monday night to postpone voting on an ordinance that could pave the way for hotels to be built in the city.

Ordinance 2014-04 proposes a text amendment to the city’s comprehensive zoning and development code to establish “hotel” as a permitted use in the the C1-A, Restricted Commercial District.

According to Community Development Director Matt McLachlan, there are two spots along McMullen Booth Road that fall into the C1-A designation, and the owner of one of the properties is the person who initiated this action.

“The district encompasses the existing commercial shopping centers on the northeast, southeast and southwest corners of McMullen Booth Road and Enterprise Road, and the small strip of commercial north and south of State Road 590 on the east side of McMullen Booth Road,” McLachlan explained.

“The current interest lies in Oakbrook Plaza, where the owner is exploring either repurposing or redeveloping existing office space for hotel use.”

McLachlan also said the ordinance would provide a definition of “hotel” that is in accordance with state statutes, and provide regulations on features, amenities, room size and parking space allowance.

The ordinance was approved by the city’s planning and zoning board by a 6-1 vote, and while McLachlan said there are no firm plans in place yet, some members of the commission expressed concerns over allowing hotels to be built in the city without having control over certain aspects of the structures.

“My only concern is, with no idea or no plan in place at the present time, you’d hate to have one of these hotels that you see on (US) 19 or someplace which doesn’t really match the community feel,” Commission Cliff Merz said.

“What input do we have in being able to have a say in it?”

McLachlan explained that if the commission wanted to have some control over certain aspects of the hotels, the conditions would have to be put in the ordinance before it is approved.

City attorney Alan Zimmet concurred.

“If you want to regulate those, this is the time to do it,” he said. “If we don’t do anything, then any hotel that comes in and wants approval that otherwise meets the code requirements and performance standards is going to be approved.”

Zimmet also explained other communities have enacted standards for certain buildings and structures, such as ‘big box’ retail stores, that fit in with the overall look and feel of the community.

Commissioner Nancy Besore, who was participating in possibly her final meeting pending the outcome of next week’s special election, suggested they take more time to discuss the issue.

“I want some more study on this, too. I’m not comfortable,” she said “This is going to a constant thorn once we open this door.”

McLachlan said he would do some research and come back with more details on specifications, such as lot size, and present them to the commission at the next meeting on March 17.

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