St. Lucie planning and zoning officials discuss new land use for proposed condo-hotel

ST. LUCIE COUNTY — The idea of a luxury hotel where some of the units are individually owned could be good for the county as long as the property remains a hotel, said the county Planning and Zoning Commission.

The commission Thursday discussed what requirements are needed to create a resort zoning district to apply to a project such as the proposed 400-bed condo-hotel on North Hutchinson Island, where some of the units would be individually owned.

Las Vegas billionaire Phil Ruffin, the owner of Treasure Island Hotel and Casino on the Vegas Strip, wants to build the condo-hotel at 2600 N. State Road A1A, the location of the former Radisson Hotel.

“It will have the same furniture you will find in a hotel. It will have room service 18 hours a day. It will have maid service. It will have a front desk,” said attorney W. Lee Dobbins of Fort Pierce-based Dean-Mead law firm, which represents Ruffin.

County officials have said a new zoning district is needed because the county’s current land-use development code doesn’t have a zoning category to allow hotels to sell rooms.

Several on the commission said the new code must require any property described as a condo-hotel to operate as a hotel and clearly limit how long individual owners can stay in their units.

Commissioners said they were concerned a developer could build a condo-hotel and then operate it as a condominium. Commissioners also voiced concerns that owners of individual units would want to use their unit during tourist season, which would limit the number of hotel units available for guests.

Planning Manager Leslie Olson said the resort zoning would have language prohibiting owners from using the unit as a homestead.

While the proposed project will be the first to use the new zoning district, any future developments in the county also would be allowed to use the category.

Planning and Zoning Commissioner Edward Lounds said he can see resort zoning happening in the western county where there is land to accommodate a large project.

“Something like an equestrian resort on something say, 500 acres, where there are trails where guests can ride horses. I think that would be a draw,” Lounds said.

WHAT IS A CONDO-HOTEL?

A condo-hotel is a hotel where some rooms are individually owned. Owners of individual rooms allow the hotel to rent those rooms when not in use.

Owners of the rooms are not allowed to change the room’s look or keep personal effects in the room.

Usually the room’s owner receives between 30 to 50 percent of the profit, after deducting maintenance fees from renting their room.

Typically, the investor signs a contract with the hotel that states when and how long the owner can stay in the room. If the length of stay is not stated in the contract, local government zoning ordinances regarding time limits would apply.

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