A dispute over a 46-year-old sign easement recently threatened to scuttle a $40 million redevelopment plan by the owner of the Roomba Inn & Suites on Kissimmee's W192 near Old Town.
Ontario-based CTN Developments had received demolition permits for the 400-room hotel from Osceola County in January. The developer plans to replace the Roomba with a new Home2 Suites, an extended stay flag extended from Hilton, and 60,000 square feet of new retail and dining.
CTN is also applying for Commercial Tourist zoning to replace the earlier Planned Development. The company was supposed to remove the non-conforming pole sign on the property and replace it with an approved monument sign as a condition of the zoning.
But the owner of Tropical Palms RV Resort claimed a vested right to keep an off-site sign at the corner of W192 and Holiday Trail. The pole sign contained advertising for the Roomba Inn, Celebrations Suites and Tropical Palms.
The RV resort's attorney told members of the county's Development Review Committee that Osceola County actually required his client to spend $25,000 last year to repair the sign. They were able to put a hold on the demolition until the issue is resolved.
"We'd like to work with the county to get new signs that conform to the standard, but that will take some time," attorney Jacob Cremer said on Wednesday.
Orlando attorney Biff Godfrey, who represents CTN, said his client has been trying to negotiate a resolution with Tropical Palms for more than a year. "We don't see that continued negotiations would be fruitful," he said.
Cremer worried that replacing the PD with straight zoning would negate the sign easement between the two property owners dating back to 1972. Rj Whidden planner John Adams told the DRC that even if Tropical Palms replaced the pole sign with a monument sign, it would still be considered off-site advertising, which isn't allowed in the county.
Except that now it is.
Senior Zoning Technician Amy Templeton said the county stopped regulating advertising content on signs in 2016 based on a landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"We removed off-site signs from our ordinance," she said. "You could put 'Taco Bell' on it if you wanted to."
Assistant County Attorney Shannon Charles told Kremer the issue of whether CTN could be forced to allow a new Tropical Palms sign on its property is a civil matter between the property owners.
The DRC approved the rezoning application. It now goes to the Planning Commission and Board of County Commissioners in March and April, respectively.
CTN Vice President Abdul Alshoghri told GrowthSpotter last month the company plans to start demolishing the hotel in early April and go straight into construction of the new hotel-retail complex.