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Date of Issue: June 07, 2007

Multi-unit combo proposal fizzles in Bradenton Beach

Myriad questions by city officials prompted a developer to withdraw his development request for property in the 2200 block of Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach last week.

RAPS Development LLC of Longboat Key, with agent Rich Spanski, represent the Beach Club at Anna Maria. He told city planning and zoning board members he and his group want to combine three properties, vacate a portion of 22nd Street and donate beachfront property to the city as part of the project.

The properties include 47 units. Existing resorts are the Gulffront Seaside Inn, Sunset Beach Motel - located across Gulf Drive - and Tropic Isles.

Spanski proffered a relatively new concept to planners last week in the form of a "development agreement," which "allows the local government and the applicant to negotiate conditions of development of development to provide public/private benefits that might otherwise be construed as unconstitutional contract zoning."

RAPS plan was to combine the three existing motels into one development.

Seaside Inn, on the Gulf of Mexico, would serve as the check-in for the complex. It would also be demolished and reconstructed to include 10 resort units, all on the existing building "footprint," but with under-building parking.

Sunset Beach motel, east of Seaside across Gulf Drive, is currently under renovation.

Spanski initially said he hoped the development agreement would be approved by the city's planning and zoning board and recommended to the city commission, with the proffer of the developer's donation of about 27,000 square feet of beachfront property as part of the city's agreement to vacate 22nd Street, which divides Sunset Beach and Tropic Isles, from Avenue C to Gulf Drive.

"There is minimal traffic on 22nd Street," Spanski told planners. "I've seen most of the people use the street as a pedestrian area."

Then the concerns about the project started up among planners and others.

City building official Steve Gilbert was not pleased with the vacation of the street.

"Staff recommendation is not to vacate 22nd Street," he said.

Mamon Lavoie, with the Florida Department of Transportation, echoed Gilbert's concerns.

She said that the DOT had let a project for the northern portion of Gulf Drive in May, which involves sidewalks flowing from Avenue C off Gulf Drive through 22nd Street.

P&Z member Jo Ann Meilner said she was concerned about setbacks in the coastal construction control zone for the Seaside Inn if it were to be demolished and then rebuilt.

She also questioned the questionable benefits of the beachfront land proffer, which is arguably worthless for development, but which the developer stated would be retained by the developer as part of a "perpetual, non-exclusive right to use the beach area and to place and leave beach chairs, umbrellas, tables, kayaks, sunfish, portable storage and the like on the sand."

P&Z board member Ernest Clay said the plans as presented "are very incomplete. You've got more than 10 setback issues."

Clay said he had issues with the street vacation, the fact that the proposed project would stretch across a state highway that incorporates an S-curve, and that the preliminary drawings call for the steel barricade at the S-curve be removed.

"Your sketch has no safety barriers," Clay said. "You're going to have all kind of kids running across the street to the beach. What you're doing there conceptually is a very bad idea."

City attorney Ralf Brookes agreed. "I believe you've got a very preliminary proposal," he said.

Then both Clay and Meilner questioned the parking for the proposed Seaside Inn renovation, which had preliminary parking plans that did not appear to meet city code.

"This parking plan would not work," Clay said. "You need to get at least a 6-foot variance to widen the building. It's just not going to work."

"I don't see the benefit to the city," P&Z chair Rick Bisio said. He said that the beachfront property is apparently undevelopable, although he said that "if you want to tear down Seaside and elevate it and make it work, I'm not adverse to it."

In public comment, resident Greg Bowers expressed his concerns about access to the beach. "They are run down," he said, "and need to be renovated, but we want to have our access to the beach."

Resident Nancy Ockerman said she wanted to "see 22nd Street open to the public."

Based on the concerns echoed, RAPS attorney David Rosenberg said he would withdraw the development agreement "and come back at a later time" with another proposal.