Town debates Colony progress
Editor & Publisher
The complicated legal and property ownership entanglement of the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort was discussed by the Longboat Key Town Commission last Monday night when Town Manager Dave Bullock said a request to continue the grandfathering of the Colony’s 237 units is expected.
Last March, the Town Commission extended the right for unit owners to grandfather the resort use until the end of 2012.
Town law says an abandoned use can only be grandfathered for one year or the zoning of the property reverts to the current, or in the case of the Colony, the underlying zoning.
At the Colony site, the underlying zoning is 6 units per acre, which would effectively reduce the unit count from 237 to about 120 on its near-18 acre site.
The Town chastised the Colony factions last March and told the Association of Unit Owners, Colony founder and President Murf Klauber and Colony Lender that it would be very unlikely to grant another extension past 2012 unless substantial progress is made toward redevelopment.
Since then, Klauber has been strategizing redevelopment with former Ritz Carlton President Horst Schulze.
Klauber’s position in the Colony denouement has been buoyed by a U.S. District Appeals Court ruling that directs a lower Bankruptcy Judge to instruct the Association of unit owners to pay Klauber more than $20 million in damages, or return management control of the resort along with $7 million in damages. That ruling is being played out in the Bankruptcy Court with a hearing set for July 13.
Bullock gave an update to the Commission last week, and the state of affairs did not make the Commission happy.
Bullock said the Town has continued to receive inquires on opening up units with some individuals very active in trying to get individual units open. Bullock said he expects requests for permit applications soon, but has not received any to date.
Commissioner Jack Duncan spoke of the visual impact from Gulf of Mexico Drive.
“The sign looks hideous and the palm trees need to be straightened. I would be willing to stay an extra day and forgo my vacation to paint that sign,” said Duncan.
Bullock said the Colony sign is on private property and Klauber had previously received a designation of the sign as historic.
The sign was painted on July 5 — a cleaner shade of green.
Commissioner Lynn Larson questioned how the Town could be in a position of granting permits when ownership is in question.
Town Attorney Dave Persson said who manages the Colony is in question.
“We do know the unit owners own their units and do have some rights to improve their property,” said Persson.
Vice Mayor Dave Brenner said the complications of the Colony go way beyond the legal issue. He questioned if it is a tourist unit owners were attempting to open up or a place to live as a resident. Brenner said he did not have those answers.
Commissioner Pat Zunz said her concern was with the individual owners trying to get permits. She said she was puzzled on how the Town could process permits if a lift station is not working and there is no water to the units.
“It seems getting permits is putting the cart before the horse,” said Zunz.
Bullock said that in May he sent a letter to the unit owners stating that not only would building codes of their individual units have to be met, but global issues such as the sewer and water supply would have to be evaluated and sound according to inspections and an engineer.
Mayor Jim Brown questioned the very fundamentals of improving a handful of units, which was described as an effort to legally reopen and therefore avoid losing the grandfathered status as a resort with 237 units.
“Who wants to stay in a unit in a declining, decaying resort? We are looking for a resolution, a solution,” said Brown.
Brown then questioned whether the Town in sending a message that it may not grandfather the units past the end of the year was placing “unintended stress on the situation.”
For Commissioner Phil Younger the whole dilemma “is a catch 22 situation.”
Younger added, “The parties are fighting like wet cats in a bag. If the Town just sits back and says ‘you guys go ahead and fight it out’ how long will this situation occur? I think we have to wait until December and cross that bridge when it comes. Maybe we are forcing some things that are not good.”
Brenner said one of the things he has heard is the people coming with permit requests are the people living closest to the water and others are saying “level the whole thing”.
Brenner added, “I am inclined to get through the summer and see if these people will wise up.”
Bullock said the wastewater system might pose the biggest challenge for unit owners. He said that permitting on the private lift station is through the DEP. Bullock was unsure of the status of the permitting but said the Town would require an engineering report.
Brown questioned how Dr. Klauber lives in the mid-rise building if there is no active sewage facilities.
Bullock said there has been no abandonment of use at that unit and it has been grandfathered as a residence. Klauber has lived in his unit continuously for decades.
Bullock said the difference between the load one homeowner places on the sewage system and 237 units is huge. He added that there is no evidence of any leaks to the sewage system.
Commissioner Lynn Larson said it was important for her to continue to receive updates on the Colony.
“While we are not trying to beat them into submission – or maybe we are – we will probably be here another 10 years,” said Larson.
Younger joked that the positive side to the matter is “we don’t have to deal with the Dolphin Towers.”
Bullock ended the discussion by stating that he believed the Commission will see an application to extend the tourism designation in the near future.