Wednesday, June 03, 2015


St. Augustine PZB denies hotel plan to use off-site parking
Posted: June 2, 2015 - 11:38pm

Farid Ashdji’s plan to build an upscale hotel at 1111 N. Ponce de Leon Blvd. took another hit with Tuesday’s decision by the St. Augustine Planning and Zoning Board.

The board voted 7-0 to deny the hotel owner’s request to provide 25 of a required 125 parking spaces off-site in an alternate plan presented during the meeting.

He was scheduled to submit two different proposals, but it was decided not to pursue the other agenda item, which was a Planned Unit Development (PUD) that would allow the new hotel to exceed the city’s height limit but not need off-site parking.

Ashdji, represented by Mark Knight, was basically trying to hedge his bets. He wanted the PUD with a higher height limit or the use by exception to move some parking to property next door to the hotel.

“We’re looking for something simple without having to raise the height limit,” Knight said of the parking proposal.

Ashdji is trying to transform a property that has a modest hotel — which used to be a Quality Inn — into a Hyatt Place. But there are myriad conditions required by the Hyatt Place franchise that Ashdji must meet. At the same time, he’s trying to comply with the city’s requirements.

It boils down to the fact that he needs either more space on the ground or more space in the air to make the property work for a 125-room facility.

So far, the city has not granted him either.

In January, the PZB voted unanimously in favor of Ashdji’s request for a PUD that would have allowed a hotel to exceed the current height limitations by 15 feet.

However, that was just a recommendation to the City Commission, which went its own way and denied Ashdji’s request.

Following the vote Tuesday, Knight said Ashdji didn’t want to go to the board with the PUD request after they had just voted against him on the parking request.

He said Ashdji is still trying to decide what his next move should be. He doesn’t want to spend a lot of money getting an architect to draw up new plans without having a good idea about how receptive the city will be to it.

The PZB showed absolutely no interest in the off-site parking plan. Ashdji was hoping to secure a lease with ownership of 1305 North Ponce de Leon Blvd., which shares an entrance with the hotel on Ponce de Leon Boulevard. It’s being used by St. Augustine Historical Tours Inc.

PZB member Jerry Dixon was the most outspoken in criticism of the plan. He was concerned about what would happen if there was a new property owner who decided not to allow the hotel to lease 25 spaces.

“Here, we’re building a building on a sublease,” Dixon said. “There’s no guarantee that’s going to stay.”

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