Zoning Board Okays Casino
By Dwayne Bremer
Oct 5, 2013, 00:20
An artistís conception of the proposed South Beach Casino & Resort developers want to build at Lakeshore.
The Hancock County Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday voted unanimously to approve two variances for a group which plans to build a new convention center/casino and near Pointsete Street in Clermont Harbor.
The request will now be forwarded to the Hancock County Board of Supervisors for final approval.
The project is being spearheaded by local businessmen Russell "Ree" Elliott and Kirk Ladner.
SRP Development of Columbus Oh., has been retained as the developer for the project.
Elliot told the commission that his group wants to build the netw facility on the north side of Beach Blv. near Pointsete Street.
In order to begin the project, developers first had to obtain two variances.
The first variance dealt with the square footage of the property.
According to Hancock County's zoning ordinances, developers had to have at least five acres of land for the property.
Elliott said his group has 3.9 acres of land, which is actually more than the Silver Slipper Casino.
The second request involved an increase in the property's surface area.
Several residents of Clermont Harbor and Lakeshore were present and spoke in favor of the project.
Nobody spoke against it.
"A lot of our displaced residents are looking for a reason to come back," Dr. Millie Usher, the president of the Clermont Harbor Civic Assoc., said. "I think this can be an asset to the community and I can see a lot of good coming out of it."
The development takes advantage of the county's resort zoning in the Clermont Harbor and Lakeshore areas.
Prior to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Hancock County Board of Supervisors changed the zoning in the area to allow commercial resort developments on the beach-front in Lakeshore.
After a lengthy legal battle which went all the way to the state supreme court, the zoning finally went into effect in 2008.
The area near the Silver Slipper Casino is zoned C-4 and the area east of the casino extending towards Pointsette Street is zoned C-3.
Commission Chairman Paul Koenig asked Elliot if developers had conducted a traffic study and what their plans were to improve the area.
Paul Taylor of SRP said developers plan to widen Pointsette Street to 40 feet and the group also plans to donate equipment to the Clermont Harbor Fire Department and improve its facilities.
Resident Bonnie Sanders asked what will become of 11 oak trees on the property.
Elliot said initial plans have some of the trees being incorporated into the landscape of the property.
Marylyn Garcia, a longtime resident of the area, said she is excited about the project.
"I'm all for it," she said. "I wish you the best of luck."
Elliot said if supervisors approve the variances, his group will begin the next phase of the plan.
If approved, developers will be able to get a permit to begin the convention center; however, in order to build a casino, the group must first get approval from the gaming commission.
Elliott said Friday that the goal of the project is to bring life back to the Clermont Harbor area.
"We want this to be a catalyst for bigger things," he said. "We cannot thank the people of the community enough for supporting us."