|By Todd Wright, The Miami Herald
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
May 7, 2006 - The new Hollywood Grande is supposed to look like a hotel, act like a hotel and give off the feel of a hotel.
But Broward County and Hollywood officials and beach residents are concerned the development and other hybrid condominiumhotel proposals might actually be more condo than hotel.
And with few rules to regulate the latest concept by real estate developers, some think condohotels could flood beach areas with people when the infrastructure can't handle any more permanent residents.
The result could be increased traffic, water and sewer problems and troubles evacuating people from places like Hollywood beach, which has already met its population threshold.
The only developments that can be approved on the barrier island are commercial and hotel buildings.
"It makes all the difference in the world what you call these things," said Dan Abbott, Hollywood's city attorney. "Every government is conceivably faced with the decision of how to deal with condo-hotels. Are they condos or are they hotel rooms?"
No city in Broward County has a definition for condo-hotels, but the developments are sprouting out of the ground in many beachfront communities.
Projects are in the pipeline on Hollywood beach, Pompano Beach and Fort Lauderdale, where several already exist. Miami Beach also has several condo-hotel projects.
Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach are considering ordinances to set rules for condo-hotels, and Hollywood has been looking at the issue since last year.
Hollywood commissioners were expected to debate a definition Wednesday at a City Commission meeting, but a group of developers made a last-minute request for the city to adjust its definition and the issue was pulled off the agenda.
Under the proposed Hollywood ordinance, a condohotel must have at least 200 units, and units must be rented by different individuals at least six times during the year. No renter can stay in a room longer than six months.
The building is also required to have a lobby, central telephone system and key-card entry system.
Hollywood officials would also have access to the condo-hotel's financial records and room inventory to make sure the rules are being followed.
The proposal submitted by condo-hotel developers asks for the city to lift the financial-records clause and the requirement for units to be rented at least six times during the year. It also reduces the maximum stay by a renter in a unit from 180 to 150 days.
"The city wants it to look, feel and taste like any other hotel on Hollywood beach and we have no real problem with that," said William Bloom, a partner at the Holland and Knight law firm, which represents several condo-hotel developers. "We would prefer having a longer period of rent time, but that's not the driving force behind our changes."
In recent years, the Broward County Planning Council has frowned upon new condo towers or villages on the beach and have essentially told local governments to do the same, said Henry Sniezek, executive director of the agency.
The county's Comprehensive Plan, which projects the county's population growth, has set stringent guidelines on beachfront development to help cities manage the demands on infrastructure and to ensure safety in case people need to be evacuated because of hurricanes or some other disaster.
Sniezek said the county has been monitoring the condo-hotel boom, but has left regulations and definitions up to local governments.
"We are relying on the municipalities to make sure condo-hotels are maintained as primarily hotel and commercial properties," he said. "If the condo-hotel rooms became more like condos and permanent residences, there will be unanticipated and unplanned consequences."
Last month, Hollywood officials decided to take a step back from beach development altogether, by enacting a moratorium on new projects that could last until the end of the year.
The move did not affect projects already approved, such as Hollywood Grande, which would not meet the proposed definition's standards for a condo-hotel.
REQUEST TO EXPAND
At 148 units, it's too small. Developer Fabrizio Passlacqua recently asked to expand it to more than 200 units.
The increase has drawn criticism by beach residents who think the condo-hotel concept is a ploy by developers to get around the city's restriction on new permanent residential developments.
Critics have argued condo-hotels still bring more people to the beach, which will lead to all types of problems associated with overcrowding.
Unless the city prohibits condo-hotel developments on the beach, it doesn't matter what the definition is, said Cynthia Greene-Eason, president of the Condos of Hollywood Beach, a coalition of condo associations.
"It's basically the same thing -- a big building with lots of people. We cannot sustain any more people down here, period," she said. "Where are all these people going to go when a hurricane comes?
"They are just going to jam up the roads and it's going to be chaos. It's a very unsafe problem."
Copyright (c) 2006, The Miami Herald
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