8-story hotel rejected; second big win for waterfront view residents

5:26 p.m Friday, Nov. 3, 2017 Local
Palm Harbor Marina hotel, as proposed in 2014. Neighboring condo said the 8-story waterfront plan violated 4-story property restriction. (Artist’s rendering)

In a blow to city efforts to allow an 8-story Palm Harbor Marina hotel downtown, an appellate court this week sided with neighboring Waterview Towers condo owners’ contention that property restrictions limiting the site to 4 stories were valid and enforceable.

The effort marked the second time in two months that a city plan to allow a waterfront building more than double existing height limits has been shot down. In September the city commission, by a one-vote margin, rejected a rezoning plan that would have allowed Related Cos. to build a 25-story office tower in a 5-story zone on South Flagler Drive.

“This case is yet another example of the city ignoring the limitations on the development of property, as well as the input from the neighboring property owners, in an attempt to allow a developer to build a project which would otherwise not be permitted,” said John Eubanks, who with Robert Hauser represented the Waterview.

The Waterview has been fighting the hotel plan for three years. At issue before the Fourth District Court of Appeal was whether the condo could enforce development restrictions in the condo documents that govern both the condo and hotel sites, which are on land under long-term lease from the city.

Developer Leisure Resorts, LLC, an affiliate of the mega-yacht marina operator, planned to build on the commercial property just south of the 23-story condo tower. Plans called for a 107-room hotel that would rise 8 stories, as high as 93 feet, a 120,000-square-foot building.

But the Waterview argued that the land lease and condo documents, which date to 1979, limit the site to a building of no more than 4 stories and 20,000 square feet and limit what percentage of the condo tower’s waterfront view can be blocked.

A circuit court ruled that the condo didn’t have standing to enforce restrictions on the commercial site but the three-member appellate court panel disagreed, with Judge Cory Ciklin dissenting.

“In the dissent, at least one of the three judges agreed with the City’s position,” West Palm Beach spokeswoman Kathleen Walter said Friday. “The City intends to pursue all legal remedies available.”

Cheryl Chase, a principal of Leisure Resorts, declined comment because of ongoing litigation.

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