Don’t like the Madeira Beach Town Center? Be grateful one of these 5 concepts isn’t going there

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

In Madeira Beach, the sleepy beach community that lies to the west of booming St. Petersburg and up the road from tourist meccas St. Pete Beach and Treasure Island, a legal technicality has led to the demise of a petition drive which aimed at halting a pair of waterfront development projects.

Madeira Beach United had its efforts thwarted after the City Clerk refused to accept an affidavit signed by its committee members. The testimony is required by the city charter to start a petition drive. In a letter to the five, Clerk Aimee Servedio said she rejected the affidavit because it’s unclear whether they were placed under oath before or after they signed the document.

Whether this splitting of hairs will stand after an inevitable legal challenge is anyone’s guess. But stopping this petition drive may be a blessing in disguise — even for those who are diametrically opposed to the development projects.

One parcel is vacant. The other, known as the “Holton property,” is partly empty but also houses a boat storage facility with slips and marina-related commercial uses.

A developer, Holiday Isles Resort, wants to rezone the parcels to make the way for hotels, condominiums, a restaurant, commercial development, a marina and a parking garage.

A review of the planning analysis document prepared by Cynthia Tarapani of Florida Design Consultants offers a stark reminder of what could have been.

Just compare the density allowed to what is proposed.

For the hotel, the proposed development is substantially lower (59 units an acre) than the maximum development potential allowed in the city’s special area plan.

But arguing over the size and density of the hotel aspect of this project is not what residents should be considering.

For those residents who object to this vision for the two parcels, it’s important to remember what could have happened on the properties.

Think these new projects will create traffic problems around the bridge? Well, what kind of bottlenecks would have been set up had a Bass Pro Fishing shopping complex gone there?

Think a handful of high-end hotels and condominiums will change the face of Madeira Beach? Well, what would the city look like if the largest strip club in Pinellas County was sitting at the base of the Tom Stuart Causeway?

Instead of what will be built at the Holiday Isle Marina Site, here are five projects that COULD have been constructed there — and still may be if a handful of residents have their way.

Bass Pro Shop

Just about from day one, a Bass Pro Shop – allowable under the current zoning – would give Madeira Beach residents more nightmares than any hotel.

Picture this:

Bass Pro shop traffic

Fans of the popular sporting goods chain often celebrate its grand opening with a massive tailgate party, beginning hours before the official opening (which is usually at 6:30 a.m.), with shoppers already lined up outside days before the actual event.

When Bass Pro Shop opened in San Jose November 2015, more than 7,000 guests registered on the Facebook event page; that was only a fraction of the number of people who showed up for the grand opening.

“It’s like an adult Toys-R-Us,”  one shopper said. Indeed.

Target or a Walmart neighborhood market.

Want to give residents apoplectic fits? Whisper the magic hyphenated word: “Walmart.”

Even the mere rumor of a Wal-Mart’s interest in a community gets people riled up and ready to fight at the drop of a hat (or blue greeter vest).

Just ask residents of Brighton Bay.

About ten years ago, Walmart sought approval from the City of St. Pete for a proposed store on Gandy Boulevard, across from Derby Lane.

After catching wind of the plans, the neighborhood banded together to mount an aggressive campaign, fueled ostensibly by concerns over traffic, increased crime (even though a strip club and dog track are directly across the street) and damage to neighboring wetlands.

By 2005, the company abandoned the proposal, what was then considered a major win for residents. But was it?

Incidentally, the land is zoned for a Walmart or similar business from the onset. But who attends those boring city zoning meetings, especially one that would have saved so much trouble down the road?

Walmart’s example, though, ended up to be a case of “be careful what you wish for.”

Instead of a supercenter, there is now the construction of an extensive 381-apartment mega-complex, built on the same lot critics once vehemently argued was “protected wetlands.”

Strip club, err, adult entertainment complex.

mermaids

Zoning can be a funny thing – since one part of the Holton Property is zoned “adult.” So … imagine Mermaids 2 going there.

The fact is, few openly complain about the physical presence of a building. Rarely does a community object to a well-designed structure on an abandoned piece of land.

What is really at issue here (as is with a Target) – even more than traffic – is the type of customer such a business will attract.

In this instance, substitute the phrase “strip club patron” for “Walmart customer” and you get the idea. Howdy, neighbors!

A high-and-dry boat storage.

No one denies traffic could quickly become a headache for a neighborhood.

But when adding marine to land-based traffic – along with the commercial maintenance, repair, loading and unloading of boats – the headaches grow proportionally. And then it just becomes another unsightly industrial blight on Madeira Beach, pretty much useless for attracting tourists – whose spending is necessary to expand the tax base.

Besides, a high-and-dry boat storage facility would likely provide many other amenities – similar somewhat to what you would find in an average hotel complex – sidewalks, barbecues, entertainment and other recreational areas, just on a smaller scale (without the added bed tax revenue for area improvements).

And, try as they might, landscaping and design would do little to keep such a large structure (a minimum of three stories) from standing out like a sore thumb.

Nothing. The vacant land can continue to be an eyesore.

Empty lots, particularly those anywhere near the beach, can be especially troublesome. Ad hoc parking lots, impromptu beach parties, and people just hanging out in an unregulated space is almost certainly something these concerned citizens don’t want. But, in this situation, they could easily get any one of these things.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.