Palmetto denies request for its first hotel

jtate@bradenton.comNovember 5, 2013 

PALMETTO -- The Palmetto City Commission reversed its earlier unanimous approval in September and Monday voted to deny approval of its first hotel, which would have been built in the Riviera Dunes neighborhood.

Venice-based developer Harry Walia wanted to bring a Hyatt Hotel to the area.

The commission voted 4-1 against the project, saying the hotel was not compatible with existing residential uses.

Commissioners Tambra Varnadore, Johnathan Davis, Tamara Cornwell and Brian Williams voted to deny the project.

Commissioner Charles Smith was the lone commissioner to vote to OK the hotel and also had a motion to approve the hotel die from lack of a second.

More than 60 residents came to Palmetto City Hall to voice disagreement with the hotel project. When the proposal was turned down they cheered, applauded and some even hugged.

Dr. Gino Sedillo, who owns property in the area, became an unintentional leader among the group who rejected the idea of a hotel in the requested area. He said he and his fellow residents were afraid the commission was going to commit to this one small development and sacrifice future larger-scale developments.

"I'm very relieved and I'm very pleased with their decision. I think they looked at the facts for what they are and they considered it appropriately and made the right decision," said Sedillo.

With the land he owns in the area, Sedillo said he will continue moving forward with developing a hotel onsite with specialty retail, high-end town homes and office park.

Residents complained there is not enough parking for the proposed hotel, its placement would block their views of the water and lower property values and increase traffic. They said there are many other sites better suited to build Palmetto's first hotel.

Fred and Deborah Sperry were among the almost dozen people who spoke during public comment. The husband and wife said they are for a hotel, but not in the area intended.

"We think it was the right decision," said Fred Sperry, president of Bel Mare Con

dominium Association. "We knew we had a lot of facts on our side, but you never know how the decision will be made."

"We are actually going to help Dr. Sedillo get his hotel in and do it right, and do a master development on all that property there," said Deborah Sperry.

Walia did not attend the meeting, however, his spokesman, Dutch Powers, said he hopes Palmetto gets a hotel.

"We think the city will move forward and find something that's a project they can embrace, and we hope that they do that because the people need a hotel," said Powers.

He said Walia's proposed hotel could have brought at least 80 jobs to the Palmetto area.

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

In other business:

• The city commission approved a special function permit for the Hernando De Soto Heritage Society Seafood Festival.

Smith noted the event is a week before the Blues Festival and organizer Patrick Carnegie was concerned by the proximity. Smith suggested the two groups meet to discuss those concerns. He also said efforts should be made to protect the brick paving at Sutton Park from grease so as not to not tarnish its appearance.

Varnadore had concerns with road closures and parking for people visiting the library during the seafood fest. Gary Kortzendorf said the organization will put up signage for the library.

Janey Tate, city of Bradenton and Palmetto reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. You can follow her on Twitter at Janey_Tate.

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