City rejects Miami firm’s proposed water park on oceanfront hotel site

Key International wanted to put a water park near the Embassy Suites hotel the firm is building on an oceanfront site in St. Augustine Beach

Jun.June 10, 2018 10:55 AM

St. Augustine Beach

UPDATED, 3:20 p.m., June 14: Miami-based Key International failed to win city approval for a water park at an Embassy Suites hotel the firm is building along the Atlantic Ocean in St. Augustine Beach.

City commissioners unanimously rejected Key International’s proposal to build a water park on the hotel construction site. The firm bought the 6.5-acre sit with 535 feet of frontage on the ocean in 2015 for $4 million.

In a memo to the commissioners, city building official Brian Law recommended approval of the water park because the height of its equipment would be under the city’s 35-foot limit on building height.

The water-park proposal revived anger and confusion over the height of the hotel itself.

About 20 citizens made public comments at the June 4 city commission meeting, and more than half of them opposed the proposed water park.

In 2014, voters in St. Augustine Beach approved the city’s 35-foot limit on the height of buildings.

But in 2015, Key International won approval to build the Embassy Suites hotel with more than 170 rooms to a height of more than 50 feet. The hotel is under construction and expected to open this year.

City officials agreed that the 35-foot limit should be measured from the first floor of inhabitable space because Key International elevated the base of the hotel for flood insurance purposes.

St. Augustine Beach residents “are really upset [over] what they pulled on the flood elevation,” Julie Campbell Abicht, a former member of the city’s planning board, told city commissioners at their June 4 meeting.

She opposed the proposed water park, contending that the city should enforce a 35-foot limit on the height of buildings regardless of the need to elevate them.

Key International will have about a month to appeal the rejection of its proposed water park in a court filing, according to City Attorney Jim Wilson. [The St. Augustine Record] – Mike Seemuth

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated where the water park would be built. 

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