Colony Association President reassures Aquarius residents
Colony Association President Jay Yablon says he is reaching out to Aquarius residents who complained last week with a slew of emails to town hall pressuring the Longboat Key Town Commission to deny granting an 18-month grandfathering extension to the Colony.
Aquarius residents are concerned that the already dilapidated Colony will only be more of an eyesore and health hazard with rats running rampant, if the town allows the Colony an extra 18 months past their Dec. 31, 2012 deadline to come up with a development plan.
“We are opposed to any extension by the Colony Association. The Colony is already an eyesore and detrimental to our property values in its present state. We cannot imagine what extending it by an additional 18 months would do to the property and to our values here,” wrote Aquarius residents David and Linda Van Howe in an email to town commissioners.
“…I would hope that you would not extend action at the Colony for any longer than it has already had. It has been both an eyesore with developing health issues for both our condominium association and the entire Longboat Key for long enough,” wrote John Swengel a condominium owner at the Aquarius.
Yablon understands his neighbors concerns about the issues at the Colony. In an interview with Longboat Key News Yablon said, “We’re working as hard as we can to get the legal disputes resolved, but I sympathize with the neighbors feeling upset with the property being closed for so long and everything that goes along with that. I have already instructed our property manager to go in and set rat traps because that is one of the concerns that they raised. I am trying to get in touch with the Aquarius people and trying to get things done to remedy the concerns that they have. Until we can get to the point of resolving all the legal disputes at the Colony, I want to make sure we have an acceptable level of curb appeal. If people with the Aquarius walk with our managers at the property, we will make sure those issues get resolved immediately.”
Yablon also points out that if the Colony does not receive the 18-month extension, it will revert back to its former land use zoning, which only would allow a total of 90 units on the property as opposed to its current 237 units. If that happens, he said, the legal disputes over the property could become even more lengthy and cumbersome than they already are.
“Once again, I understand our neighbors being upset with the situation, but I would point out that turning the Colony into a 90-unit facility would not help, and would lengthen the period of time due to more legal disputes, and the town would likely find itself in litigation with individual owners. Two hundred thirty-seven deeded owners would then have to decide how to divide up the 90 units. I couldn’t think of a thornier problem to contend with,” said Yablon.
The Colony Association of Unit owners officially petitioned the Town of Longboat Key in July to grant an 18-month extension to allow the grandfathering of the resort’s use and 237 units past a town-imposed Dec. 31 deadline. The request was made by Carlton Fields Attorney Don Hemke, who represents The Colony Association, in a letter to the town asking that the matter be considered in September and voted upon by the Town Commission, that can approve or not approve any extensions to the grandfathered rights beyond the year-end date.
Hemke wrote in his letter to the town, “Due to ‘legal restraints,’ however, the Colony cannot be re-opened as a first-class tourist-oriented development prior to December 31, 2012. Most optimistically, a first-class resort at the Colony cannot be reopened until June 30, 2014. The Association certainly appreciates the frustration the Town has voiced concerning the delay in reopening a first-class resort at the Colony. But the Association would point out that its 232 Unit Owners also are frustrated because the ‘legal restraints’ at the Colony have precluded the Unit Owners from personally using their units and from obtaining economic benefits from their units for more than two years (while at the same time being assessed approximately $1,650,000 to maintain, preserve development rights, and plan and implement a first-class rehabilitation or redevelopment at the Colony.”
Last March is when the Town Commission extended the right for unit owners to grandfather the resort use until the end of 2012. Town ordinance 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, that underlying zoning is 6 units per acre, which would effectively reduce the historical unit count from 237 to about 90 on its near-18 acre site.
As testimony to the complexity and distance from any resolution of the Colony litigation, Hemke added in his letter that if the town does not continue the grandfathering, “The Unit Owners and the Association would have no alternative but to proceed to resume tourism operations akin to what was in existence as of mid-August 2010 without the first-class rehabilitation or redevelopment being in place in order to avoid losing their ‘grandfathered’ rights. The alternative of resuming limited tourism operations without first-class rehabilitation or redevelopment at the Colony would, however, be highly detrimental to the Colony long-term and to Longboat Key.”
“I suspect it will be like cell towers, the Colony or any controversial item, a lot people will attend the workshop (September) and there will be a lot of discussion, but nothing will be decided then,” said Mayor Jim Brown of the Colony extension discussion.
Fellow Commissioner Jack Duncan felt that the length of time for the extension as well as whether or not to grant one, may be up for discussion.
“I think until we sit down and try to vet this thing completely, my sense is its very difficult to give an opinion at this point in time. The ramifications of an extension or not an extension and what the consequences of that are is what needs to be discussed at this point. I don’t think we need to go to an 18-month extension, some other time frame could be discussed. I’m disappointed that the progress of the parties involved has been slow up until this point and that they haven’t worked anything out to date,” said Duncan.
The next scheduled discussion for the Colony extension will be at the Sept. 24 workshop to be held at 1 p.m. in town hall. The final decision on whether to grant the extension for the Colony will be made at the regular commission meeting held on Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. in Town Hall.