Todd Neville ignores public concerns over development

With Commissioner Leanna Freeman absent Monday night, the three attending commissioners approved a motion by Todd Neville to ignore nearly an hour of public comment dominated by speakers opposing the San Marco Hotel plans.

Mayor Nancy Shaver was the lone vote to deny moving a proposed rezoning of the HP-5 property to a second reading, public hearing and final action. She shared her position with Historic City News in support of the residents who responded to a questionnaire on the subject and who spoke in person during the meeting.

Our job is to look out for the City’s interest and our neighbors along Grove Avenue, and their rightful expectation of the integrity of their neighborhood-absent a clear and higher benefit.

This application has been about parking—and quite honestly making the proposed San Marco Hotel more economical to build. To pave paradise and put up a parking lot—perhaps not paradise but another chunk of an historic district. Mr. Patel is a business person who I respect and like, –and in his place I would have made the same request to have a more cost effective project. However, facilitating that economic benefit is not our role as Commissioners.

And to be clear—what Mr. Patel has asked for isn’t enough parking and he knows it. During the PZB hearings, Mr. Birchim and Mr. Whitehouse spoke of Mr. Patel seeking additional parking in our public garage. His proposed plan provides 144 spaces. The Best Western and Barnacle Bill’s have 110 parking spaces. It’s not believable that 30 more parking spaces could be sufficient for a Marriot Renaissance. The Florida Building Code says a better number would be 280– so close to 150 spaces short.

And then there is the likely parking spill over into the neighborhood. And we’ve heard loud and clear from the people most affected –36 of the 40 opposed the parking lot.

So, the stage is set for an expected lengthy and testy public hearing in two weeks on hotelier Kanti Patel’s request for surface parking on Historic Preservation District land.

If the rezoning is approved at that meeting, Patel’s 2006 planned unit development for a hotel along West Castillo Drive, will be amended; changing underground parking to surface parking on the current Barnacle Bill’s Restaurant site, connected to the remainder of the PUD by a less expensive underground tunnel.