Safety Harbor Hotel Ordinance Passes, At Least Temporarily
The Safety Harbor City Commission unanimously approved an ordinance Monday night that would allow hotels to be a permitted use in certain commercial zones in the city.
But as is befitting this contentious issue, which has rankled residents who live near the three C1-A districts and slogged through City Hall for months, the matter is not quite a done deal – at least not yet.
After adding two new conditions to Ordinance 2014-04 based on suggestions and comments that were made at the previous commission meeting, including not allowing balconies to face residences and placing hotels in a zone within 300 feet of a public road, the item reverted back to first-reading status.
Following an hour of commentary, discussion and debate on Monday, the commission approved the ordinance by a vote of 5-0, but with a potential catch: increasing the setbacks between residential properties that would abut the commercial zones where hotels could be built.
“I understand the concerns,” Vice Mayor Cliff Merz said, referring to the number of residents from the area in question who spoke out against having a hotel in their backyard.
“Could an additional line be put in to say that it (a hotel) had to be located 100-150 feet within a residence?”
By proposing this wider setback clause, city officials will have to do some research and calculating to figure out just how wide the buffers could be in relationship to the other measurements and requirements for the properties.
The current setbacks for front, side and backyards adjacent to commercial properties are between 25 and 35 feet wide.
Mayor Andy Steingold and Commissioner Andy Zodrow concurred with the vice mayor’s suggestion, but rather than delay voting on the issue again, City Attorney Alan Zimmet suggested the commission vote on the item as is, then bring it back for second reading next month with the setback proposals included.
The ordinance has set off a firestorm of controversy that was unforeseen when it was approved by the Planning and Zoning Board earlier this year.
Over the course of three commission meetings spanning two months and two sets of commissioners, dozens of residents have showed up, mainly to protest the possibility of hotels being built in the city.
One resident on Monday night even went so far as to compare allowing hotels in the area to turning the neighborhood into the equivalent of “primate cages at the zoo.”
But not everybody is against the ordinance.
“I think if we’re going to move forward as a community, we have to get beyond the ‘not in my backyard’ syndrome,” Jim Barge said.
“If every single item that comes before the commission has 20 abutting property owners coming up and saying ‘I like it, but not in my backyard’, nothing will ever get done in this community.”
At least one commissioner also sees the area as a prime spot for hotels.
“It is a very probable place to put a hotel and I think there will be huge benefits,” Commissioner Carlos Diaz said of the Oakbrook Plaza, where a spokesperson for the property said there has been interest from developers to build a high-end hotel.
“This property owner is looking to upgrade it, not only for himself, but for the city,” he added.
“I think this is an opportunity, and if we squash that opportunity, then who knows?”
The next City Commission meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 5 at 7:30 p.m.
the hotel ordinance is not bad but that abomination by Crispers was complete mistake
Small high end hotel would be fine. Less than x number of rooms. No (&*U motel 6’s.