Naples city council voted 7-0 on Tuesday for uphold the decision of a design committee who authorized the reconstruction plans for HB’s on the Gulf restaurant at the Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club.
Three inhabitants of Naples appealed for the approval of the Design Review Board of the proposed project earlier this year.
The project would expand the beachfront restaurant and reduce the size of an adjacent meeting room, as the Watkins family, longtime owners of the hotel, plan to sell the 125-acre property to The Athens Group for redevelopment.
The beach hotel is closed on Sundays and is doomed to demolition.
It was “critical” to dismiss the appeal on Tuesday because timing is of the essence, lawyer Elise Batsel of law firm Stearns Weaver Miller said at the special meeting.
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An almost 10-year-old state environmental permit is due to expire in July. If so, the restaurant would have to be moved further from the shore and raised to meet current building requirements, Tim McCarthy, architect at Hart Howerton, recently told the Naples Daily News.
Batsel said the business deal between the Watkins family and The Athens Group indicates that Athens will expand the restaurant to its current location.
“You lose those toes in the sand (feeling) if you have to code that,” Batsel said at the meeting.
City Councilor Mike McCabe said if the Watkins family sold the hotel in Athens, the company would have to submit a new petition to the design committee.
“We’re supposed to make (the decision) based on the architectural design and the details of a building that will never be built,” McCabe said.
In response, Batsel said it was important to recognize the property rights of the Watkins family.
“If the Watkins build this, does it meet the criteria?” Batsel said advisers should ask themselves the question.
“If the sale goes through, then Athens has the opportunity to come back and use that as a springboard for their vision,” Batsel said.
Gregory Myers, the appellant, said at the meeting that he had easement rights that would be violated if his appeal failed.
“I have an easement in this right-of-way that goes down to the beach, right in the middle of HB,” Myers said.
City Councilor Paul Perry said Myers had a “private property dispute” that could be resolved in court.
“We, as the appeal board, have no authority to resolve private property disputes,” said Perry.
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Mary Young and Jack Ladley, who filed a separate appeal, said at the meeting that they withdrew their appeal late Monday night.
In an email sent on Tuesday, Ladley wrote that they had decided to drop their appeal because the revised board presentations addressed many of the concerns they had originally expressed.
“(The) Athens group very recently made a number of commitments which we felt indicated a genuine attempt in” good faith “to address several of the residents’ concerns. Of course, we look forward to the council. municipal monitors these commitments and ensures that they are implemented in the future, ”Ladley wrote.
Vice Mayor Terry Hutchison said there was still work to be done to protect the green spaces at the hotel’s golf course.
“The issue of getting the developer to keep the promises of the strongest possible conservation easement is also of the utmost importance,” Hutchison said.
In a written statement sent on Tuesday, Jay Newman, chief operating officer of The Athens Group, said he appreciated the city council’s decision.
“This critical approval will enable Athens to realize its shared vision with the Watkins family and its commitments to these beloved facilities to ensure that they will be available for the community to enjoy in the future Four Seasons complex at the Naples Beach Club. Newman said.
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After hours of presentations, debates and sometimes heated exchanges on the expansion of HB, the city council voted to postpone several items on the agenda that were scheduled for a regular meeting on Tuesday evening.
The city council will discuss at a meeting next Tuesday how the city will seek a new city manager following the resignation from General Manager Charles Chapman earlier this month.
The date on which a city manager will be hired depends on the recruitment method chosen by the city council, Acting city manager Dana Souza said on Tuesday.
If the city council decides that the city will take care of recruiting and shortlisting candidates, a new city manager could possibly start in October. On the other hand, if the board decides to issue a request for proposal to hire an executive search firm, a new manager won’t start until January of next year.
The city council also postponed until next Tuesday the first reading of an ordinance that would allow the so-called rooftop restaurants with outdoor dining to be located on the second and third floors of the buildings on Fifth Avenue South, subject to approval of conditional use.
Journalist Laura Layden contributed to this report.