HERNANDO BEACH — When Yann and Jacqueline Milcendeau bought the Hernando Beach Motel two years ago, they jumped in to remodel and spruce up the six-room, 1961 facility. They landscaped, updated and stuck giant Adirondack chairs out front, providing tourists a popular photo backdrop.
Late last year, the couple bought an adjacent, 61-foot slice of property abutting Sterling Marina, bringing their overall lot to a full acre. On it, they want to build a second motel building — three stories atop stilts — quadrupling their room count to 24.
Their plan requires county permission to build wider and higher than development rules allow, and has drawn criticism from neighbors. The County Commission will decide the matter tentatively on March 27.
Some residents look at the artist’s drawing of a colorful new building on Shoal Line Boulevard and see an upgrade. Others see echoes of Clearwater Beach or Miami Beach — crowded, noisy places they hoped to avoid when they came to Hernando Beach.
The community has fought change in recent years, including the Dollar General Store built two years ago, which was the first commercial construction in Hernando Beach in years. The community social media outlet Next Door Hernando Beach has lit up with arguments for and against the motel expansion.
On February 10, hotel owners sponsored a required public information workshop about their plans. About 100 residents came for more information or to support the expansion. Others wanted Milcendeau to put in writing that he would not establish a tiki bar on the roof. They also questioned why he couldn’t stay within current development codes.
Specifically, Milcendeau wants a variance on the building’s south-side setback. Generally it would have to be 20 feet from the lot line shared with the marina property, but Milcendeau wants that reduced to 10 feet. He also wants a building 54 feet tall to allow for an elevator and two staircase towers, but the county limits building heights to 45 feet.
Neighbors expressed a variety of concerns.
They questioned whether the plan was to build multiple phases and potentially raze the existing motel building. Joel Hayes, whose home would be in the shadow of the addition, worried that after the current owners are gone, "it has the potential to double.’’
"Are you going to do a tiki bar on the roof?’’ asked John Lawson. His home faces down the canal toward the new building site.
Milcendeau said he wouldn’t commit in writing that there would be no tiki bar. He may use the top deck for weddings, and wants to open it as a place for residents to watch sunsets.
Hernando Beach resident Charles Hahn said he doesn’t want his unique neighborhood to turn into Miami Beach and was concerned about the pink building. This is the Nature Coast, he said, "make it a little more unobtrusive.’’
"Why can’t you keep it to the code?’’ asked John McKay, who lives across the canal from the site.
Milcendeau said his plans are necessary to make the project economically feasible.
Other Hernando Beach residents had a different perspective.
Several liked the artist’s rendering and said the building was nicer-looking than commercial properties down Shoal Line Boulevard. Others complimented the owners’ upgrades to the old motel building.
Hernando Beach is the best bargain in waterfront living around, said realtor John McRae, who sold the motel to the Milcendeaus.
"Things change, and whether we like it or not, Hernando Beach is going to change,’’ he said, citing the Dollar General as an example. He said he was among those reluctant to see the chain build on Shoal Line, but acknowledged he shops there frequently.
"They’re convenient,’’ he said, "and the beer is cheap.’’
Contact Barbara Behrendt at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.