Sand Key Residents Fight Cabana Club Development

Legg Mason Real Estate Investors, the owner and redeveloper of the Belleview Biltmore and the Cabana Club, plans to replace the current club and swimming pool with a 6 story luxury 38 room boutique hotel with a large restaurant, bar and beach side cabaña amenity. Lead architect Richard Heisenbottle presented the details of the project in a public meeting last Tuesday at the Belleview Biltmore.
Many Sand Key residents say that the project is too commercial for the residential area, although the present site operates commercially. Community activists have organized opposition to the project and have fashioned an information blog and web site pointing out their objections. One is heavy beach use as a result of the hotel and cabanas in an area they consider environmentally sensitive. Ocean views coveted by residents near the project could conceivably be diminished by the height of the proposed building. It measures 67 feet above the flood zone line that is approximately 6 feet above ground level at the site. The code calls for 25 feet, but many buildings in the area surpass that and 2 properties at 1350 and 1370 Gulf Boulevard have received variances to 80 feet within the past three years.
Design and construction plans that have been revised by the developer seek various deviations to the Community Development Code including set backs, distance to neighboring properties and building height, all of which pose problems according to opponents. The issues are now under review by the Clearwater Planning Department and a report should be available in August with city staff recommendations concerning the variances. The board will study the report before taking action on the issues at their August 19th meeting at city hall.