Commission Postpones Hotel Ordinance Vote Again
The new-look Safety Harbor City Commission once again postponed a vote on a proposed ordinance that would pave the way for hotels to be built in certain commercial districts in the city.
After the prior regime agreed to delay making a decision on Ordinance 2014-04 during the March 3rd commission meeting so that some concerns with the proposal could be addressed, the newly configured commission, which added three new members on Monday, also decided to delay voting on the matter after hearing a number of complaints from residents.
A dozen people spoke out about the issue Monday night, many of them opposing the proposal or saying they had no idea the matter was coming before the commission, prompting Mayor Andy Steingold to suggest putting off voting on the issue.
“I have no opposition to continuing this to the next meeting and doing something better about sending out notice,” Steingold said. “This could be a significant change, and there are some valid concerns.”
The concerns primarily center on two issues: the hotels, which could only be built in three commercial districts at the intersection of McMullen Booth and Enterprise Roads, would bring in an element of crime; and building three-story transient accommodations would ruin the charm, quaintness – and property values – of Safety Harbor.
One by one, a steady stream of residents came to the podium to express some variation on these concerns.
“I live in a neighborhood adjacent to Northwood Commons…and I’m concerned about a hotel coming in,” Dan Rizzuto said. “There’s been four break-ins to our vehicles in the neighborhood, and I’m thinking with more of a transient group coming in, our vehicles and homes will be broken into even more.”
“We don’t need a hotel in our area,” Lorraine Woltz said. “I feel like a hotel is not the right fit for our area, and I know a lot of people who feel the same way as I do.”
Todd Pressman, spokesperson for the Oakbrook Plaza developer, said they are just trying to improve what is a deteriorating property while adding amenities that are welcomed in many other neighboring areas.
“When I looked through the code, strangely enough, the City of Safety Harbor is the only jurisdiction in the area that does not have an element in their code to allow hotels,” Pressman said. “And I can tell you there has been interest from some high-level hotels for this site.”
“This is a precluded ordinance that doesn’t affect the entire city,” he added. “We know exactly where its going to go, if it’s going to go.”
But a number of people also said they did not know about the proposed code change, despite the fact they city went through all the proper protocols and channels in regards to advertising the matter, including sending notice to all property owners within a 500-foot radius of the area, something that was not required by law.
“We got our notice about a month ago that there was this first meeting to deal with a hotel possibly going in, so we had no prior knowledge of this,” Larry McLaughlin said. “We notified our neighbors that this was happening, and they had no idea this was occurring.”
“Why are we rushing this?” Laura Dent asked. “Maybe we need one more meeting, one more month. Does one month really matter that much that we can’t give it another 30 days?”
“Obviously this has been well noticed,” Pressman countered. “Your staff noticed a number of people who didn’t even have to be noticed.”
“The shopping center has always tried to be a good corporate citizen. They want to move forward, but they need your help.”
Despite the plea as well as a couple of people speaking in favor of the ordinance, ultimately the commission agreed with the request to delay a vote, especially in light of the fact that some of them were being asked to decide on the matter for the first time.
“I’m hearing a lot of opposition, and with the three of us just getting sworn in today…I do feel a little uncomfortable approving this,” Commissioner Andy Zodrow said.
“I think it’s good for Safety Harbor to have some hotels, but I’m just having issues with the notice and the fact that we were just literally sworn in tonight.”
“In light of the two new commissioners, I wouldn’t have a problem delaying it,” Vice Mayor Cliff Merz concurred.
The commission voted 5-0 to table the matter until the next meeting on Monday, April 21.
I am all for a hotel only if it is going to be like an upper class boutique hotel not a chain of any kind; here’s a good example of a gorgeous boutique hotel in Sarasota http://www.srqhotel.com/home/ here’s a gorgeous place in Naples; http://www.trianon.com/bonitabay.html places like this don’t have illegal activities, they are wholesome places, it will be great for all of us to thrive, please consider an option such as this before jumping to wrong conclusions, thanks for your consideration!
I am a Business owner and Safety Harbor residence since 1991. I often have high profile clients in town and have tried several times to book rooms over in Oldsmar, but to no avail. As mentioned, the Spa is not only in need of renovation, but also in need of a major lift in customer service. It is for that reason that I have tried to book rooms at the Oldsmar hotels, but during peak seasons they can not accommodate the demand. I am all for a new hotel in the location that is proposed. I have personally paid $300-$700 tabs at local Safety Harbor Bars and Restaurants when entertaining clients – and I am happy to do so because I love this city and the brave entrepreneurs that have invested here. If I have to take my clients to Oldsmar for lodging – then it is the chain restaurants in Oldsmar that will get that revenue.
Although I can appreciate that the new council members need some time to wrap their minds around this proposal it’s important to point out that all of the comments from the people opposed to this ordinance are already dealt with in our current code. There is no reason to worry about a hotel that is too tall, in fact the current building that is there now is too tall according to our current code, so a new hotel will be better for those who are concerned about people “looking into their windows” from the top floor. Another interesting comment I heard was that some people are concerned that a hotel will be a magnet for prostitution – (meaning an hourly hotel) I really don’t even know how to process that kind of thinking.
I wish people would actually get the facts together before showing up at a city meeting and waisting time with unfounded concerns. The one thing we can all see eye to eye on is that Safety Harbor is a great place to live and work. We need to keep progressing and moving forward in reasonable ways. If we cease to improve and grow, then local business will fail, tax revenue for the city will drop, funding for all the maintenance and green spaces will suffer, and our beloved Safety Harbor will end up looking like the other cities in the county that resisted growth and change.
Well said, David. I couldn’t agree more with your observations.
I support the hotel proposal. Many visitors don’t want or need the amenities of the Spa. A hotel at the Enterprise intersection offers visitors a wide variety of amenities – food, beverages, grocery and drug stores – and that money stays in Safety Harbor. It is certainly better than sending visitors to Clearwater or Oldsmar when they want to visit SH.
If the hotel type is designed to attract Marriott, Hilton, Holiday Inn that would fill the need very nicely. These hotels operate in thousands of communities and they do so as a positive amenity.
I would encourage the Board to allow a hotel with the appropriate use requirements put into place.
Change is always an emotional issue. People in general don’t like change because it makes what they know, their habits and experiences different. Putting that emotional response aside, Safety Harbor actually is a tourist destination by the simple fact of all the festivals and events it hosts downtown, the Spa and Safety Harbor being on the Jolly Trolley route. That said, there is a difference between motels for transients and hotels for tourists and business travelers. Yes, there is a Holiday Inn Express on Hillsborough in Oldsmar – and where do they business travelers spend their money – in the businesses surrounding the hotel in Oldsmar, not Safety Harbor. Business travelers and tourists staying in the Safety Harbor area are more likely to spend money in Safety Harbor restaurants and businesses, helping to keep our downtown alive and vibrant. A Marriott Courtyard, Holiday Inn Suites, or a Comfort Suites type hotel would probably improve the safety and clientele type of that current area from the run-down buildings that are there now.
Well said, Gary. Thanks for the comment.
That place needs a renovation for sure, but I’d rather not see a hotel there.
There’s a massive holiday Inn (or something) that was just built on hillsborough maybe a year ago, and another big hotel facing it across the street. It’s literally a five minute drive from downtown SH. No one is walking to downtown from McMullen and enterprise anyway
Eric, the commission has already set certain restrictions such as room size, lobbies and no room access from the parking lot. The height would be 3 stories/35 feet. Other restrictions or conditions could be addressed either before or at the next meeting.
As for the demand for a hotel, some people who spoke cited the fact that for all the festivals and events the town hosts, the only place for visitors to stay in town is either the Spa or the Safety Harbor Motel. A hotel in this area would allow visitors to stay in the city rather than have to look for lodging in other areas.
Thanks for the comment.
I think hotels are fine, but they need to have pretty stringent design standards. No outdoor corridors, At least 4 stories, etc.
I do wonder if there is any real demand for hotels in Safety Harbor though. It really isn’t a tourist destination and honestly that is probably a good thing.