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Don’t bulldoze my home

BLAKE FLEETWOOD
Guest Columnist
opinion@lbknews.com

There are some people in this town who want to bulldoze the 237 condos at the Colony Beach and Tennis Club.

Georgie McFarland commented in the Longboat Key News, “Most of the Colony should be bulldozed immediately.”

People are also understandably tired of the legal fights and the loss of tax revenue — real estate taxes, tourism taxes and sales taxes. Some of our neighbors have jumped into the fray, charging that the property is run down.

The truth is they are all right.

But bulldozing our homes is not the answer. It will lead to years, if not decades, of legal wrangling between all parties involved. We will end up legally stinging each other to death like scorpions in a bottle.

If we level the Colony, this prime gulf-front land will remain vacant and run down for years to come. The Colony will become a ghost town, a once vibrant community reduced to tumbleweeds blowing in the wind among the empty buildings.

The thousands of wealthy visitors and tennis buffs, who used to visit the town and spend their money with such abandonment, won’t be coming to the Colony anymore. They will go to St. Barts or Naples or another prime vacation spot. Real estate tax revenue to the town will drop to a fraction of what it once was. Tourism taxes will be non-existent, and restaurants and shops will suffer.

In this scenario, nobody wins.

Murf Klauber deserves a debt of gratitude for the marvelous and wonderful resort he created and nurtured for 50 years.

When Murf started selling people on Longboat Key and Sarasota 50 years ago, there was nothing here. He was the first. He was selling a dream. Since then, more than a million people have passed through the Colony in the last 30 years. Many have gone on to buy houses and condos on other parts of the island.

Political figures and celebrities have come to the Colony to relax and rejuvenate on our glorious beach. Our guest list has been diverse, including Jimmy Carter, Dustin Hoffman, Bud Collins, Jack Hanna, Al Gore and countless others. George W. Bush was staying here with his brother Jeb when he learned of the attack on 9/11.

Murf pioneered the concept of sports tourism when he made tennis a central focus, attracting the likes of Pete Sampras, Monica Seles and champion tennis coach Nick Bollettieri. Murf’s matchmaking tennis program propelled the Colony to number one rank as a resort in Tennis Magazine — for eight years in a row!

The Colony was and still could be a powerful gateway to the entire LBK community. What we have is not just any cookie cutter hotel; it is a unique and wonderful place in a country that is losing its special paces. Under current FEMA zoning rules, it could never be rebuilt from scratch.

Tearing down the Colony would destroy a national treasure, like bulldozing The Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, the Del Coronado in San Diego, or the Fontainebleau in Miami.

I book thousands of people in exclusive resorts and hotels around the world, and historic hotels have a special appeal. Sophisticated casual, beach chic — whatever you call it, it’s what people want. People don’t want high-rise slabs, when they can have a beautiful campus-like setting, steps from the beach.

What can be preserved at the Colony should be and reopened as soon as possible. And what can’t be restored should be quickly rebuilt. This makes sense economically, emotionally and legally.

This week, the board came to an agreement with Andy Adams — owner of 51 units — and Coral Hospitality to restore our historic resort town back to the condition it was in 20 years ago. They are looking to recreate the Four Star Resort that belongs on this landmark site.

Andy has a tremendous stake in the Colony. He wants what we want and he is willing to put up the money, along with the owners, to make it happen. Andy wants to get to work as soon as possible, with the goal of opening some units before the winter season.

This will start with a thorough cleanup and landscaping of the grounds starting this Saturday. The Colony Board already committed $35,000 to this effort.

No one can tell you, at this time, what the future will bring in terms of legal actions, but, for now, we are in control of our destiny and our units. We must be prepared to seize the opportunities as they present themselves over the next few weeks and months. The best way to make a deal for the missing three acres is to start fixing up what we have. There is no time to waste, as our condos slide into disrepair, neighbors complain and we get no use out of them.

If we start now — and the town can give us an extension on the grandfathered zoning — we can make this part of historic old Florida magnificent again.

Give us a chance to make our dream a reality.

Blake Fleetwood, a Colony condo owner, is a former reporter for the New York Times who has written for New York Magazine, the Washington Monthly and the New York Daily News. He also owns a travel agency. He fell in love with the Colony 15 years ago when he first came with his wife and two sons and hopes to retire on Longboat Key.

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7 Responses for “Don’t bulldoze my home”

  1. Ingeborg says:

    When someone writes an article he/she maintains the plan of a user in his/her
    brain that how a user can be aware of it.
    Thus that’s why this paragraph is outstdanding. Thanks!

  2. Today, I went to the beach with my children. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear and screamed.
    There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to
    go back! LoL I know this is completely off topic but I had to tell someone!

  3. Judy O'Brien Klauber says:

    Mr. McFarland, this man, Dr. Murray J. Klauber, and his ENTIRE family put their heart, spirit, soul and sincere hospitality into this property and its business of pleasure. It was…and is still, their life’s blood. No, it should not be bulldozed. What you see is not what he creatively dreamed and made to be so many years ago. It should be brought back to the excellence it was intended for that was the invention and extremely exquisite vision my former father in-law had intended it to be more than 40 years ago. He is a dreamer, a designer, a visionary, a creative genious and, along with the mother of his three children (and Susan Basset Klauber), raised proud, talented, hospitable children to carry that dream along with allowing them the freedom to create very successful dreams of their own. And they have in spades. Today, that vision carries on as his grandchildren carry the torch of following in the footsteps of their loving parents and grandparents while being proud enough to work within the family businesses. That and the legacy they carry should tell you plenty. They’re all, the entire family, including the ex’s, are proud of the family’s legacy. It should not be simply bulldozed and made as nothing was ever there before.

    We haven’t always agreed, however, he IS a visionary and created a bijou on Longboat Key that has given many families, including my own, many lovely memories. It should be renewed and reborn.

  4. Jim Nasium says:

    Mr. Fleetwood, you’re absolutely correct about everything, except what you may not realize is that the structures within The Colony property are far beyond repair. The mid-rise building just earned a “no entry” status from a P.E.firm apparently doing some sort of assessment. The outbuildings weren’t in that great of shape when the place was open for business. Rotted flooring, rusted structural steel, severe corrosion, you name it. I think many folks would like to see the original splendor of The Colony maintained, but seriously… it’ll be more expensive trying to rehab those buildings on the property than to tear them down and start fresh. It’s a matter of reality and cost, now. It’s not realistic to refurbish the buildings when they are so far gone. The mold mitigation alone will be hundreds of thousands of dollars on all the buildings on the property.

  5. Blake Fleetwood says:

    This is what the plans going forward are. The idea is to build a new hotel building out by the road, but keep the footprint of the existing buildings. Some of them will have to be taken down to the studs, but anything can be renovated.

    The new hotel project is some time away and probably will require a site review from the town and state, but many of the existing units can be restored to Four Star quality in the meantime.

    If the grandfathered zoning is taken away and reduced from 237 to 90 homes, I can imagine the chaos.

    Will I have to take in two other Colony families in to live with me in my condo?

    Who will get Christmas vacation?. Who gets the master bedroom?

    Which condos will qualify for the 90 legal ones allowed? and which ones will have to be torn down?

    I suspect there will be more than a few disagreements. It will be a mess that no developer will want to get close to.

    Blake Fleetwood jfleetwood@aol.com

  6. John Wild says:

    Interesting concept, Georgie, keeping the current units closest to the beach (and not allowed in a total “teardown, scrape and rebuild’), and replacing everything east of the FEMA line. Should the ultimate developer seek what’s left of the 250 new hotel rooms (less those now taken by Hilton) could therefore add those by building newer units with elevators and give prior owners the first right of refusal to recapture their unit but on an upper floor. But for now, the only thing rising are the legal fees.

  7. Georgie McFarland says:

    In return for a continued use on The Colony’s 237 units or more after rebuild, the Town should demand that the Colony Association BULLDOZE those buildings on the 15 acres that the Association still controls that are East of the FEMA line. Those units that are to the West of the FEMA line should be rehabilitated as they cannot be replaced. The unit owner’s would lose nothing as they would still have righ’ts to their unit when rebuilt which now is not habitable and would cost more to restore than replace. The Association, which I am sure is spending 95% of it’s income on Lawyer’s fees and consultants, has little left over for maintenance of the property. The annoucement at the eleventh hour to set aside $35,000 for cleanup of this eyesore comes a little too late after several years of neglect.

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