Four developers and their attorney, seven objectors and their attorney, three members of the public and the Central Planning Authority board packed into a conference room on the second floor of the Government Administration Building on Wednesday, all of them there for a special hearing over whether the development application for a 456-room hotel at the southern tip of Seven Mile Beach would be approved.
But soon after the meeting began, the board decided the hearing on the $300 million proposed development could not move forward “because we feel the application isn’t complete,” said chairman A. L. Thompson.
The Central Planning Authority made its decision because Chief Surveyor Michael Whiteman has not authenticated a required high water mark survey conducted on behalf of the hotel’s developers, the Howard Hospitality Group. Mr. Whiteman has not authenticated the survey because it was not signed by the owner of the 7.1-acre Pageant Beach site, according to attorney Sherri Bodden, who represented the developers at the meeting.
Ms. Bodden said that Mr. Whiteman’s decision to not authenticate the survey – a study that determines where the maximum point that the water reaches the shore lies – over what she called a technicality was “unreasonable.” Ms. Bodden further said that the planning board has discretion to waive the authenticated survey requirement, and not doing so would also be unreasonable.
Trio Design Consultants President Mike Stroh, the architect of record for the yet-to-be-named hotel, added that the survey was conducted by a reputable firm, Roland Bodden & Co., and that the board should not have any doubts about its accuracy.
Mr. Thompson agreed that the survey was likely accurate, but said that planning regulations nevertheless require it to be authenticated. He added that the board is not exercising discretion to waive that requirement because doing so could result in an appeal of its decision.
Mr. Thompson did say that once the Central Planning Authority can confirm why Mr. Whiteman chose not to authenticate the survey, it could then decide whether to waive the authentication requirement. To that end, it was suggested by one board member that someone could go find Mr. Whiteman, who works in the Government Administration Building, and he could explain why he did not authenticate the survey.
However, another board member pointed out that it was around 12:30 p.m., and that Mr. Whiteman was likely out for lunch.
Therefore, the board decided to adjourn the hearing until Wednesday, Sept. 27. If the issue of the survey is settled at the meeting, then developers will present their plans for the hotel, and the objectors will have the chance to argue why it should not be approved.