The vacant field of rebar and overgrown grass in downtown Holmes Beach may soon see activity.
After nearly two years of on-again, off-again discussion, the site plan for Mainsail Lodge near the intersection of Gulf and Marina drives was approved by commissioners Aug. 26. But not without dissent, questions and further discussion from residents and commissioners.
“Twenty-one months ago, I walked into this building and I don’t think any of us thought we’d spend this much time on the site plan,” said Brian Check, Mainsail architect.
During the months of discussions and mediation with the city, the project was reduced 20 percent from the original size. Check, however, also acknowledged continuing concerns over the building height.
City code dictates building height to be no higher than 36 feet. The proposal is at 36 feet with a mansure-style screening extending 5 feet above the height limitation to conceal rooftop air conditioning units.
“I just wanted to stand up and let you know we have not taken the easy path. We have looked into every opportunity to screen it in a way that would appeal to the look of the city. It would be less expensive to do something else,” Check said.
City planner Bill Brisson and temporary building official Jon Betcher told commissioners the screening on the roof is consistent with the city code.
“Nothing indicates there’s anything above the 5 feet, other than an architect looking up trying to make it look pretty,” Brisson said. “Nothing else is involved.”
Yet, Holmes Beach resident Bob Johnson said during the public hearing that the land development code has specific height limitations and adherence to the LDC is of “critical importance” to the city.
Johnson cited exemptions to the height requirement listed in the code.
“Our code does not identify a decorative roof as an exempt feature. You have a duty to the citizens,” he said.
Betcher said the screening extending beyond the allowable height limit is purely aesthetic because it is not considered a structural member of the building. He added there is no height limitation to screening and that it is “a matter of perception more than anything.”
Commission Chair Judy Titsworth said allowing the mansure-style screening makes the building look taller than other structures.
And Commissioner Pat Morton said he felt allowing it would pave the way for other developers to make similar requests.
Commissioner Marvin Grossman said he recalled the commission had agreed with Check on the mansure-style screening in a previous discussion.
Check told commissioners there was no space to reduce the building height. The ceiling height in living spaces on all three floors ranged from 8 feet 5 inches to 8 feet 8 inches.
Typically, for commercial buildings, Check said he designs 10-13 foot ceiling heights.
“This is at a point where I’m drawing a building I can’t build because there’s no space to run duct work,” Check said.
By the end of the discussion, commissioners — except Morton — agreed to allow the 5-foot exception for the mansure-style screening.
Grossman questioned the increased square footage of air-conditioned space. He said the original plan submitted in 2001 amounted to some 63,000 square feet of air-conditioned space, but the current plan shows 65,864. He asked Check how there was more air-conditioned square footage if the project was reduced by 20 percent.
Check said revisions throughout the process changed the number of buildings and the height of the buildings, leading to more air-conditioned space. Stairwells, hallways, elevator shafts and the addition of a third floor added to the volume of air-conditioned space.
Changes to the site plan by Check were in response to mediation between the city and the developer that commissioners approved in February.
The agreement resulting from the mediation addressed commission concerns, as well as concerns of residents who threatened to sue if concessions could not be made.
After more than 10 years of proposals, multiple developers and nearly two years of site plan discussions, the city commission approved the site plan 3-1, with Morton dissenting. Commissioner Jean Peelen was absent.
Commissioners also approved Mainsail’s temporary parking plan, which makes use of Mainsail’s property and includes agreements with Wells Fargo Bank and Keyes Marina during construction.
In the designs
The resort will include three connected buildings — a main lodge and two wings — comprising 37 multi-bedroom guest apartments, an 80-seat restaurant and accessory uses. The development also includes a 50-slip marina.
The guest apartments will occupy the upper two floors of the wings in connected three-story buildings. The ground floor of the main building will accommodate the restaurant, meeting rooms, gift shop, business center and workout facility. The two wings will have parking on the ground level.
Two of the three buildings were allowed a slight setback relief from the waterline. One wing will be configured with a stair-step footprint along the seawall to increase the setback and improve the visual impact for residential neighbors across the canal. It also will allow for a view of the bay waters for people passing on Marina Drive.
The lodge’s west wing will meet the city required 25-foot setback.
Construction on a small peninsula that extends from the mainland into the marina on the original plan was eliminated during mediation.
A total of 98 parking spaces are required to provide 1.2 spaces per lodging unit, one parking space for every three seats in the restaurant and two parking spaces for each six-person charter boat slip at the marina, and an additional parking space for every four seats over six on a boat. One spot per two employees also is required.
Residents on Sunrise Lane, the private road east of the development, went through mediation over the proposed use of the private road as an emergency access for Mainsail. In the end, the developer agreed not to use Sunrise Lane and also to construct an opaque, 6-foot wall with vegetation along the drive to separate the residential area from the commercial development.
For the Mainsail project, ingress and egress will be from Gulf and Marina drives. A traffic analysis also is required of Mainsail under the settlement agreement.
The developers will construct a sound barrier between the lodge swimming pool and the seawall to reduce noise at the water’s edge in response to concerns from adjacent homeowners.
Mainsail Lodge development will have one year from the Aug. 26 approval to apply for an initial building permit. A demolition permit must be sought within 60 days to remove existing footers and rebar that are not required for the project.
“It took 21 months, but those 21 months were worth it,” said Commissioner David Zaccagnino.