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Surfside, Florida Approves Controversial Hotel Project Proposal
for a Four-story, 175 Room Hotel

By Angel L. Doval, The Miami HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

May 13, 2011--The battle for a contentious hotel project in Surfside is over.

Commissioners voted 2-1 in favor of the project during Tuesday's town meeting. Mayor Daniel Dietch and Commissioner Michael Karukin were absent from the meeting and did not vote. Vice mayor Joe Graubart, acting as mayor during the meeting, cast the dissenting vote.

The proposed four-story hotel includes 175 rooms, a three-story parking garage with 190 spaces, 24-hour valet service, a swimming pool on the roof, and vehicle entrance with drop-off interior to the parking garage along 92nd Street.

The proposed hotel has been a bane to several residents living near the project at 9200 Collins Ave. since the owner and developer, Silvia Coltrane, changed the site plan from a multiunit condominium to a hotel in 2010.

Coltrane, a Surfside resident, said in 2010 that changes in the real estate market prompted her to change her mind about the type of project she wanted to build on the site.

"There is no market for a residential project today," she said at the time.

Commissioners Marta Olchyk and Edward Kopelman both agreed that the project, when completed, would bring necessary revenue to the town.

"When you consider that 80 percent of this town's tax revenue is coming from residents, it's clear that we need this,'' Kopelman said.

During Tuesday's meeting, Coltrane also repeated that she wants a brand-name hotel chain at the site and is still in discussion with the Hilton, Marriott and Starwood chains.

But residents opposed to the project had their say.

"I think this hotel is way out of character for our town," said Neil Shuster. "I don't think it's appropriate for this small an area. It's going to substantially change the better part of Surfside."

Randi MacBride, wife of former town mayor Frank MacBride, said that she was not opposed to a hotel in town, but said Coltran's proposal was too large in scope.

"I'm against the size of the project," she said.

Neighbors have tried several times in the past year to stop the project. Many believe the project will change the make-up and quality of the town. Others object to the noise and disruption to traffic the construction will bring.

In April 2010, Elizabeth Bankes, who lives across the street from the proposed project, filed a lawsuit in Miami-Dade court alleging that the town did not provide the required public notice before a zoning hearing in March 2010 when the original site plan was approved. She also claimed the town violated Surfside's Town Charter, which requires residents to vote on substantial zoning changes.

She eventually dropped the lawsuit after the town approved hiring outside legal counsel to defend the town against her suit. Bankes did not want the suit to cost residents any money.

But in June 2010, commissioners decided that Coltrane would have to reapply for another site-plan approval after Town Attorney Lynn Dannheisser discovered that during the March commission meeting, approval for the project had been granted during a meeting that had not been properly advertised.

Later that summer, residents had a petition drive to force a referendum allowing town residents to decide on a new zoning code. The petition was disqualified because names of two of the five members of the official petition committee did not match the names in the voter registration.


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