ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) — It was standing room only Thursday, as hundreds of people went to learn more about a proposed resort expansion on St. Pete Beach.
TradeWinds Island Resorts is planning the expansion. However, there’s tons of pushback surrounding the project. 1,600 people have signed a petition to protect St. Pete Beach.
There are others who say this is what this community needs.
Leaders behind the project gathered input from St. Pete Beach residents, community members and neighbors Thursday night.
The expansion includes 650 more rooms, new retail space and three new parking garages. It will also bring about 300 new jobs and more than $19 million in new annual tax revenue to St. Pete Beach.
Deborah Schechner is one of many people saying no.
“Our concerns are real,” she said. “It’s too much for our small community.”
Schechner has lived on St. Pete Beach for more than 20 years. She’s concerned the expansion will add more traffic and the feel of St. Pete Beach will change.
“The things the residents enjoy and that we like that make our life more pleasurable to live on the beach are actually being taken away from us in the name of tourism,” Schechner said. “It’s very difficult to add 650 rooms, three towers and all of the pools and amenities and not expect our traffic situation exponentially grow.”
Not everyone spoke against the project Thursday. Paul Worsfold spoke on behalf of small business owners, saying the project is a plus for them.
“You’re going to have more customers,” he said. “You’re also adding jobs. You’re adding tax dollars. Something has to support all of this.”
The developers say they designed the project with the community in mind, adding the expansion will address concerns from traffic congestion to flooding.
Managing partner of 1754 Properties, the owner of TradeWinds Island Resorts Joe Smith said it’s not just about expanding, but upgrading infrastructure too.
“The plans you see today reflects some of the comments neighbors made,” Smith said. “We firmly believe the growth in actual people on site is not nearly as much as what it might be implied by the expansion of the physical plans of the project.”
“We take the issue of traffic and congestion very seriously.”
Many like Schechner are worried if this project gets the green light that they’ll see other resorts follow suit.
“Quite frankly, our city cannot handle that influx,” Schechner said. “I do fear that we’re going to be another Miami style, Fort Lauderdale style. Clearwater Beach, Sand Key. We don’t want that.”
The St. Pete Beach City Commission will consider this expansion sometime in the fall.