A developer has made some changes to its plans to rework the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, but the changes don’t address two of the community’s biggest concerns.
The Athens Group plans to tear down the beach hotel and build a smaller resort and add residential condos. But the proposal has run into opposition over its height and its proximity to the road and other buildings.
The city’s planning board is expected to vote on the project Wednesday. The board previously postponed a vote on the project to give the developer time to address questions and comments from city staff and residents.
Kim Richards, CEO of The Athens Group, which would develop the project, said his company has taken strides to listen to residents and modify the project to rectify their concerns.
“Over the past six months, Athens has shared its plan with the community, and more than 1,800 residents have attended an information session that always includes an extensive question-and-answer period,” Richards said Tuesday. “Athens has listened to the community and has made changes to the development plan to make it better.
“For these reasons, Athens believes the project presents a balanced, viable plan that embraces preservation and responsible development and offers numerous improvements, including the preservation of more than 100 acres of open space, under-building parking, reduced traffic and enhanced landscaping along Gulf Shore Boulevard,” Richards said.
Last month: Vote on Naples Beach Hotel redevelopment plan delayed amid size concerns
Since the proposal first appeared before the planning board, the developer has made some changes, including:
- Stipulating that no more than 94 dwelling units will be on the west side of Gulf Shore Boulevard North.
- Implementing a declaration that would preserve the golf course as green space in perpetuity.
The proposed heights of the residential buildings have not changed. They would be four stories to seven stories high, although the bottom of the first floors would start 18 or 19 feet above the ground, as required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for flood protection.
They would be 11½ feet higher than permitted by the city’s code, to give each condo unit a floor-to-ceiling height of 12 feet, said a representative of the developer.
The project also would require a variance for the setback of the buildings because they’d be closer to the street and the nearby Surfside Club than city codes allow.
Brent Batten: How high is high? At the Beach Club, it’s not easy to envision
Previously: Naples Beach Hotel proposed redevelopment clears city’s first hurdle
Height is one of the primary concerns among planning board members, a coalition of homeowners associations and other community members. At last month’s planning board meeting, one passionate resident jumped onto a chair to make a point about how the developer is misconstruing the height of the proposed mid-rise buildings.
“They’re saying their seven-story building is 98.75 feet tall. Let’s just say I’m 98.75 feet tall. Am I still 98.75 feet tall?” Michael McCabe asked as he climbed onto a chair.
“What they’re saying is you need to start counting at the FEMA high-water mark, which is 20 feet high,” he said.
The proposed Naples Beach Hotel redevelopment also was the subject of debate at two recent Naples City Council candidate forums, with candidates Ted Blankenship, Ray Christman, George Dondanville and Bill Moss echoing the planning board’s concerns about the heights of the proposed buildings.
All of the candidates vehemently supported preserving the hotel’s golf course.
More: Naples City Council candidates debate Naples Beach Hotel redevelopment plan at second forum
Editorial: Beach Club proposal merits more review but also a favorable outcome
Richards said the hotel’s golf course will remain untouched, aside from a few upgrades.
Residents and members of the city’s planning board have expressed interest in implementing an easement that would prohibit developers from ever doing away with the golf course. The Athens Group obliged, revising the plan to include a declaration that would preserve the green space “forever.”
“The Athens Group retained a preeminent Florida real estate attorney and University of Miami professor to consult in the development of the legal instrument that will ensure that 104.6 acres of the project’s total 125 acres will be preserved as recreation and open-space use in perpetuity,” Richards said. “The recorded declaration will be forever enforceable.”
According to the redevelopment proposal, the hotel’s meeting space would be cut in half but updated.
HB’s on the Gulf, the hotel’s signature restaurant, and the Sunset Beach Bar & Grill would be renovated and would reopen to the public, continuing the hotel’s longstanding community connections, Richards said.
In case you missed it: Developer says smaller Naples Beach Hotel, addition of condos would reduce traffic; is that possible?
The Watkins family, which has owned the hotel for decades, plans to continue operating the hotel and golf club through the 2020-21 tourist season. After that, ownership would transition to The Athens Group, which would redevelop the property in phases.
Richards said construction could begin in 2021 and the new facilities could open by Thanksgiving 2023.
City staff have recommended approval of the project with some modifications.
NAPLES BEACH HOTEL & GOLF CLUB HEARING
What: Naples Planning Advisory Board meeting
When: 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 13
Where: City Hall, 735 Eighth St. S.
Naples Daily News business reporter Laura Layden contributed to this report.