Commissioners OK request to build closer to the ocean
Published in the Daytona Beach News-Journal By Richard Conn
NEW SMYRNA BEACH — Developers of a proposed 114-room beachfront hotel gained a crucial victory Tuesday when the City Commission narrowly approved a request to allow them to build closer to the ocean.
Poseidon Hotel Ventures, which is planning to build a SpringHill Suites by Marriott on about 1½ acres just north of the Breakers Restaurant and Lounge on Flagler Avenue, asked that the city’s coastal construction setback line be moved an average of 75½ feet to the east, to allow for the construction of an underground parking area, a swimming pool and a deck.
Commissioners, in front of a standing-room-only crowd at the First Baptist Church filled with supporters and opponents of the project, approved the request by a 3-2 vote. Those voting to move the setback line were Vice Mayor Kirk Jones and Commissioners Jason McGuirk and Judy Reiker. Mayor Jim Hathaway and Commissioner Jake Sachs voted against.
The second and final reading on the request will be held 6:30 p.m. Aug. 25 at City Hall, 210 Sams Ave.
In 2008, the commission amended city law to limit any construction east of the city’s coastal construction setback line to dune walkovers and sea walls. Years later, fences were allowed, the city’s Planning Manager Gail Henrikson said.
Glenn Storch, attorney for the hotel developers, said many beachfront buildings and homes already exist past the city’s coastal construction setback line, which he called arbitrary and capricious and without any scientific basis.
‘You basically said you can’t do anything with your property past this line … it made no sense,’ Storch said.
Hathaway, who was on the commission when the decision to change the city law was made, took exception with Storch’s comments that the line was arbitrary.
He said he saw firsthand the ‘rubble’ left from businesses and homes after the 2004 hurricanes and that city officials increased restrictions for a reason.
‘There’s nothing that man can build that Mother Nature can’t take down,’ Hathaway said.
In past meetings where the hotel has been on the agenda, opponents have said the hotel is too big, wouldn’t fit in with the surrounding neighborhood and would bring too much traffic.
On Tuesday, they focused their remarks on the setback line.
‘This line is not arbit rary in the sand,’ beachside resident Randy Herman said. ‘It is a sound limit.’
McGuirk said he spent a lot of time talking with opponents of the hotel and the ‘one consistent thing’ he heard from those citizens is that the habitable portion of the hotel should be behind the line, which it would be under the current plan.
‘I have been part of moving this line three times in my short political life, whether it was on Planning and Zoning (board) or the Commission,’ he said. ‘I don’t recall anybody being here for those issues. People say this is not about the hotel, it’s about the line. I’m not so sure.’
Many opponents in the crowd carried signs that read ‘Hold the Line’ and ‘Support P&Z,’ a reference to the Planning and Zoning Board which in July recommended by a 5-2 vote that the City Commission deny the request.
The commission, also on first reading by the same 3-2 vote, approved the developer’s request to rezone the property from an ocean commercial category to a planned-unit development — a designation that typically gives a city more control over what’s built on a site — as well as a master development agreement and conceptual development plan for the project.
Supporters of the hotel have said it will bring needed hotel rooms to the city, 40 to 50 permanent jobs and $5.7 million in tax revenue over the next five years.
‘This proposed hotel — there will be none like it in the country,’ said Tim Sponsler,Marriott International’s vice president of lodging development.