|By Julie Brown, The Miami
HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 8, 2010 --Parrotheads, rejoice!
Hollywood city commissioners voted Wednesday night to go with a Cheeseburger in Paradise rather than Somewhere Over the Rainbow as they voted unanimously to approve plans for a $100 million Margaritaville resort on the city's most prized piece of oceanfront land.
With Commissioner Fran Russo noting that "Jimmy Buffett doesn't drink as much as everyone thinks he does," the commission set aside critics' concerns that the tiki-bar, tropical-themed oasis would live up to its "wasted away in Margaritaville" song lyrics.
The second-place finisher, Planet Hollywood, whose plans featured a movie-themed hotel and restaurants, was touted as more family-friendly. It included a movie studio, a state-of-the-art sound system for the nearby beach band shell, water slides and bowling alleys. Its developers promised big-name acts like Dave Matthews, Sheryl Crow and Gwen Stefani.
Longtime beach residents Joe and Audrey Joynt favored the Hollywood-themed venue, saying it was upscale and offered the right mix for the beach.
"We don't need people being wasted away in Margaritaville," said Audrey Joynt. Margaritaville, she said, "is just not Hollywood."
But commissioners were won over by the Buffett-themed project, which Mayor Peter Bober praised.
"These are places you can eat and drink; they are both bars; they both serve booze; we have two projects that do that," said Bober. "It's not fair to classify one or give it a stigma like that."
Residents and city officials raised questions Wednesday night about the flamboyant architectural design of both $100 million hotel projects proposed for the six-acre tract at State Road A1A and Johnson Street.
The Casino property, as its been called, spans from the Intracoastal Waterway to the ocean. It was once home to the historic Casino pool, built in the 1920s by city founder Joseph W. Young.
At the end of Wednesday's two-hour meeting, commissioners went with the project that was ranked at the top by its own advisory panel, which consisted of members of the city's finance, public works, recreation, tourism and other departments.
The move means that city leaders will begin the long process of evaluating whether the Margaritaville developers can come up with the right mix of entertainment, restaurants, family-friendly fare -- along with the financing -- to bring the massive project to fruition.
In contrast to years of chaotic meetings debating uses for the property, Wednesday's meeting was civil. About 150 people attended, and speakers praised City Manager Cameron Benson and his department leaders for making the process transparent for voters and taxpayers.
The developers and city will negotiate for 90 days to come up with a pact. If that fails, the city could then try to hammer out a deal with Planet Hollywood developers -- or start over.
Noting that the city has been trying to develop the tract for more than 10 years, Bober said it came down to which project has the greatest likelihood of getting done.
"This is very valuable land. It belongs to the public. Every year this land remains vacant becomes money the city loses," he added.
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