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Vote Shoots Down Proposed 17-story, 154-room Medium-priced Hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach;
Project Attemped to Cram Too Much into a Sliver of Land
By Brittany Wallman, Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Oct. 22,  2008 --FORT LAUDERDALE -- A proposed medium-priced hotel at Fort Lauderdale beach was rejected Tuesday night, after two hours of pleading on both sides.

The Cortez Hotel plan went down on a 3-2 vote late Tuesday, with only Mayor Jim Naugle and Commissioner Carlton Moore supporting it.

Cortez Property Development LLC wanted to replace an old three-story apartment building on a 22,392 square foot lot at 2926 Cortez St. with a 17-story, 154-room hotel whose nightly rents would range from $150 to $200 -- a moderate price compared to the new high-end timeshare hotels dotting the beachfront now.

Cortez lawyer Jim Blosser said he looked forward to getting details about his "totally compliant application" on the record.

"Unfortunately, much misinformation is circulating," Blosser said. " ... This is the right use at the right place and at a much-needed right time."

Opponents of the Cortez Hotel proposal packed City Hall, wearing red-T-shirts: "151 rooms, 1/2 acre lot, + 0 setbacks = Destroying our quality of life."

Shirley Smith, a beach resident, said members of the neighborhood Central Beach Alliance voted twice against the plan.

"The project attempts to cram too much into a sliver of land that is in the most congested area of the beach," she said.

The opponents were highly organized, with their own team of lawyers, and a cadre of expert witnesses on engineering, planning and traffic. Their input: the hotel plan doesn't follow city regulations about drainage, traffic, being compatible with the surrounding neighborhood, setting itself away from the property line, and fitting on the property. They talked about losing their privacy and their property values to a 200-foot tall building.

City staff said the hotel did meet city requirements, and Naugle predicted the next venue for the hotel would be in the courthouse. Opponents of the hotel live in condos that are taller and were granted exceptions from development rules, Naugle noted.

He said if the Cortez is not "compatible with the neighborhood," it's only because it's too short.

As commissioners deliberated, Moore asked City Attorney Harry Stewart how often the city is sued by a developer.

"Every time you turn one down, just about," was his answer.

Brittany Wallman can be reached at bwallman@SunSentinel.com or 954-356-4541.

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To see more of The Sun Sentinel or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.sun-sentinel.com/.

Copyright (c) 2008, Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

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