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Pinellas TDC Discusses Increasing Hotel Densities

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Pinellas TDC discusses increasing hotel densities
Tampa Bay Business Journal - 2:49 PM EDT Wednesday, May 9, 2007by Larry Halstead

Pinellas County planners are drafting a plan to increase the allowable densities for hotel properties. There's just one catch.

Even if the county signs off on the new ordinance, it will only take effect in individual communities that approve it. With anti-growth measures passed in St. Pete Beach last November, there is little chance that any new rules allowing for higher densities for developers will survive public scrutiny in that community.

The Pinellas County Tourist Development Council discussed ways to make the proposed rules happen. Most board members agreed that each local government should have the final say, yet nobody had a clear plan of how to engage the local residents so that the density issue could be understood.

"The county needs to do what it did for the Penny for Pinellas vote," said Tony Satterfield, general manager of the Alden Beach Resort, referring to the recent vote to extend an extra penny of sales tax for Pinellas County road and building projects. It's so easy for people to twist the intent of these ideas."

Redington Shores Mayor Jody Armstrong supported a "road show to educate the public."

The proposed ordinance would allow densities to increase from 1.5 to 2.5 times the currently permitted number of rooms. Properties greater than 3 acres will be able to increase the density from 50 units to 125.

But the ordinance doesn't create new locations for hotels. It only changes the density on property already approved for transient accommodations.

Hoteliers on the TDC board warned of dwindling tourism if they are not allowed to rebuild their aging facilities.

"If we don't refurbish our older buildings, we won't stay competitive," Timothy Bogott, president and chief executive officer of the TradeWinds Island Resorts, said. "We must provide for redevelopment."

Another board member, Doreen Moore, Travel Resort Services Inc., pointed out that the new densities are primarily for replacing hotel rooms that have been lost over the past few years to condo development.

"There are no incentives now to build new hotels," she said. "Once communities lose properties to condos, they can't get it back."

The plan was prepared by the Pinellas Planning Council and presented by David Healey, director. Density studies first started in 2000 with the Vision 2010 Task Force, he said. Since then more than 5,000 hotel rooms have been lost to other development.

The TDC decided to host at least two public hearings in June, to gauge public sentiment. Then, if approved, the ordinance will go to the various local governments for approval, modification, or both.
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