LARGO — Pinellas County is home to about 413 hotels. Only five of those are in Largo.
City planners hope to change that by taking measures they say would provide more opportunities for developers who have mainly focused on beach areas in the past.
“What we’re seeing in terms of development trends in Largo is a demand for hotels oriented towards business professionals, or short-term visitors who want to be near the beach but not on the beach, and travelers from nearby airports,” Planning Manager Rick Perez said during a City Commission work session July 9.
Perez said the city can attract those hotels by offering incentives and allowing them in more areas.
“Currently, the CDC (Comprehensive Development Code) does not have specific standards for hotels, and, in my opinion, is somewhat restrictive in terms of the allowable land-use classifications,” he said, noting the term “hotels” does not include other types of temporary lodging, such as motels or bed-and-breakfasts.
The code currently allows hotels in the Commercial Neighborhood, Commercial General and Residential/Office/Retail land-use classifications.
By expanding that, and allowing hotels in Industrial Limited and Residential/Office General areas, Perez said it would essentially double the amount of area open for development.
“We’re talking about in a range of about 2,000 acres throughout the whole city,” he said.
Perez said the city’s major activity centers, proximity to two airports and two major business parks — Bay Vista and ICOT Center — could help it capitalize on the potential demand for midscale hotels with space for events, professional meetings and conferences.
Commissioner Jamie Robinson agreed, adding that Largo is a prime destination for travelers who might want to avoid the beaches and tourists.
“As someone who travels a lot and stays in hotels, I specifically don’t go to the tourist areas,” he said. “I try to stay at areas specifically where I’m trying to work at in those business parks and things like that. So I think we would fit in perfect.”
One such hotel, a Home2 Suites by Hilton, is currently being built across the street from Largo Mall. The five-story hotel, which will be constructed on 2.3 acres at 10125 Ulmerton Road, will contain 118 rooms and is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2020..
The city annexed the property in June, and Perez added that amending the city’s code could also help future annexation efforts. The amendment will also create supplemental standards to ensure that the hotel uses are compatible with surrounding areas.
Perez said staff are also exploring possible density bonuses that could help keep Largo competitive.
Mayor Woody Brown said the incentives could have the added bonus of weeding out some of the seedier hotels.
“If we can kind of direct development away from that by having density bonuses, I think that makes a lot of sense,” he said.
Commissioners urged staff to move forward on the changes, which will be reviewed by the Community Development Advisory Board and Planning Board before returning to the City Commission for public hearings in August or September.