Palmetto residents say yes to a hotel, but no to proposed area

jtate@bradenton.comOctober 22, 2013 

PALMETTO -- Palmetto residents want a hotel, but not in the area proposed by Venice-based developer Harry Walia.

The Palmetto City Commission voted 4-to-1 Monday to continue considering approval of the project to Nov. 4 to give them more time to discuss the possibility of a hotel.

Walia warned the commission if it voted for a continuance he would drop his plans to develop the hotel at 120 Riviera Dunes Way near the Bradenton Area Convention Center.

Commissioners Jonathan Davis, Tamara Cornwell, Tambra Varnadore and Brian Williams voted for the continuance anyway.

Williams wanted to drop the hotel altogether but his motion died.

Commissioner Charles Smith voted in the minority. He wanted to vote on the issue immediately.

Crowd reaction was varied. Some in the standing room only crowd of at least 60 clapped while others looked on silently.

"Technically it's not dead," Smith said. "I dont think anyone had a victory, If he doesn't come Nov. 4 the hotel is dead."

Bill Horton led the pack of disgruntled residents, many

of whom live in the Rivera Dunes neighborhood. Horton, a Bel Mare resident and condo association board member, recommended the Palmetto commission deny the marina hotel approval because it does not fit on the property the developer wants to build. Horton presented a slide show to convince the commission.

"Each piece should improve the living environment. Everything should be complimentary," Horton said. "The bottom line the hotel does not fit the site. We'll help bring a hotel to Riviera Dunes, just not on this site."

Residents who spoke complained there is not enough room for parking, hotel placement will block their views of the water, causing lowered property values and increase traffic. They said there are many other alternative sites to consider to build Palmetto's first hotel.

The city commissioners heard more than two hours of public comments.

James Herston, project representative for the RW Marina Hotel and Plaza, said Palmetto deserves a hotel and the amenities it can bring to complement the beautiful area.

"I coundn't get over the sheer beauty that you have here," Herston said.

He said they are working to bring a Hyatt hotel to the area, although there is no final deal. He said people who stay at hotel will give a boost to the local ecomony.

"Hyatt attracts businesses. The decision is to approve this portion of the puzzle, you'll finally be the board that approves a hotel on the river that is so needed by the community," Herston said.

The hotel could bring at least 80 jobs to the Palmetto area.

In September, the commission unanimously approved the first reading of the project. Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant is for the hotel. She said Palmetto is long overdue for a hotel.

Jeff Burton, director of the Community Redevelopment Agency, said he's been trying 22 years to bring a hotel to the city.

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