WATCH: Brevard County Commissioners Kristine Zonka, Rita Pritchett and Curt Smith Vote To Approve Grant To Hotel Developer Driftwood Capital

By  //  July 20, 2022

Commissioner John Tobia was the lone vote against the request.

WATCH: The Brevard County Commission approved the Driftwood $30 million tourism tax proposal during a meeting on Tuesday morning.

WATCH: Longtime Space Coast hotelier Bob Baugher comments after the Brevard County Commission gifted $30 million to  Driftwood Capital. Driftwood Capital is developing a $388 million Westin Cocoa Beach Resort & Spa in Cocoa Beach and will use the $30 million over the next 30 years. The funds will be used to market the Westin exclusively and will be taken from Brevard County’s 5% tourist development bed tax on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals.

BREVARD COUNTY • VIERA FLORIDA – In an unprecedented action, and seemingly against the wishes of the vast majority of Space Coast citizens, Brevard County Commissioners Kristine Zonka, Rita Pritchett and Curt Smith voted to approve a $30 million grant to Driftwood Capital. Commissioner John Tobia was the lone vote against the request.

Driftwood Capital is developing a $388 million Westin Cocoa Beach Resort & Spa in Cocoa Beach and will use the $30 million over the next 30 years. The funds will be used to market the Westin exclusively and will be taken from Brevard County’s 5% tourist development bed tax on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals.

The Westin will replace the Driftwood Capital-owned International Palms Resort, which will be torn down to make room for the Westin.

“We lost today, but we are waiting for a reasonable legal plan to object to this,” said hotelier Bob Baugher, an owner or partner in the Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral area.

“They (Commissioners Zonka, Pritchett and Smith) are arguing that this is economic development, but the TDC is a tourism arm whose goal is to bring tourists here.”

By this action, the Brevard County Commission may find a legal challenge forthcoming from Baugher and other hoteliers who will enter into the action with Baugher.

“We will also enter the lawsuit if the legal team feels it is worthwhile,” said Nick Patel, the owner of several Brevard County-based hotels.

Commissioner John Tobia, who voted against the action, peppered the lawyers and lobbyists of the developer with questions about their request.

Lobbying on behalf of Driftwood was former Brevard County Attorney Scott Knox, former Brevard County Commissioner Robin Fisher and Brevard County attorney Kendall Moore.

The commissioners voting for the proposal bucked the Tourist Development Council, which includes members appointed by the Brevard County Commission, and expressed their opposition to Driftwood’s proposal throughout the process.

The 502-room Westin will include 11 food and beverage venues, a spa, three swimming pools, a fitness center, multiple retail locations, and a parking garage to accommodate about 800 vehicles. The facility will also include about 50,000 square feet of indoor conference space and about 70,000 square feet of outdoor conference space.

Stay tuned to Space Coast Daily for updates regarding this developing story.

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