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Fallout follows Colony meeting

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

The Longboat Key Town Commission will consider on Monday yet again grandfathering 237 units at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort – but not without some stringent conditions and strategic nudging.

After deliberating the matter last week at a special meeting, the Commission instructed the town manager to return with a resolution that will extend the right to the units if a new resort is built for a period of 36 months from when an application is made.

The town will automatically allow only 18 months to the Colony unit owners if they opt to renovate the existing resort from the time an application is made.

This approach — in granting an extension only when and if a party is legally in control of the entire property — is distinct from a general and unconditional extension, which the commission appears not willing to grant.

In the draft resolution to be considered, the town also demands landscaping standards be maintained as they were prior to the resort closing, as well as a plan for vermin and pest control that is approved by the town. The town also is requesting a $50,000 performance bond to ensure compliance.

The town has the legal authority to grant this extension, or any extension, grandfathering the right to the units if in its sole discretion it finds that “legal constraints” prohibit the timely reconstruction of the resort.

The units that the town is grandfathering represent possibly millions in dollars in value in that only about 100 units would be permitted if the grandfathered zoning is lost.

At the workshop last week, Association of Unit Owners Attorney Don Hemke said 30-50 people have been on site at the Colony each weekend and have removed 100+ tons of debris. He said that progress has been made and the unit owners have developed a timeline for redevelopment.

Commissioner Jack Duncan raised the issue with Hemke of what amount of renovation would constitute a material change of the property thereby necessitating a 75% vote of unit owners to accomplish.

Association President Jay Yablon had said earlier that a renovation may only require a 50% vote or board approval, whereas a scrape and rebuild would require a 75% threshold. Some commissioners worry that the inability of the Association to gain consensus is what may be driving the project.

Commissioner Terry Gans said that in his view the commission’s role and goal right now is to protect the neighbors and preserve the density decision.

Resident and former planner Larry Grossman asked why the town would keep giving life to a non-conforming use, he suggested that the town should just change the zoning after it determines what it wants on the site and they can then end the whole grandfathering exercise.

“You’re continuing the agony. There is a solution here – this is not it,” said Grossman.

Charles Bartlett, attorney for the General Partner and Murf Klauber, said that he and his client were less optimistic than they recently were at the prospect of reaching a settlement. He said that he did not see the financial commitment to bring a project to fruition, and that he and his client’s concern is that the Association’s plans are incomplete and do not include agreements with all the stakeholders. Bartlett said for the Colony to move forward three things had to happen: a financial commitment from the owners, a 75 percent vote, and the stakeholders in-line with the plan.

Realizing that none of those conditions were apparent, the commission decided it did not have to rush into the extension of the grandfathered units, and decided to add the conditions and have staff further develop the resolution which will be considered at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 1. in Town Hall.

Following the meeting last week, Colony founder Murf Klauber said the Association Board has made little to no progress and blamed much of the state of affairs on their inaction. He urged that the commission enact some real consequences if the Board fails to keep up its end of the agreement.

”It is time to establish definitive plans and consequences for the Board, not give them more years to procrastinate! Without conditions that are enforceable, in light of the lack of meaningful action by the current Association Board at The Colony over their last 6 years of leadership, it is our position that serious consequences for failure to meet milestones, maintain promises and fulfill directives of the Longboat Key Building Department and the Commission must be established,” wrote Klauber following the meeting.

Klauber faulted the Association for not addressing the deteriorating conditions and warned the commission that, “This is the nature of the Board that you are potentially giving open and unconditioned extensions to.”

Again, Klauber urged for consequences.

“And what about the ‘consequences’ currently and vaguely outlined should the Board not meet the commitments it is making? The Association’s attorney already stated he doesn’t believe the $50,000 bond demanded by the Commission is ‘legal,’ so then how might he respond if the only recourse against their not meeting deadlines and milestones is to forfeit the bond…a lawsuit against the Town? Firm and meaningful penalties for failure to meet milestones or to cause (or continue to allow) other Town policy violations have to be implemented. Without significant sanctions, perhaps including a revocation of the extension of the non-conforming use for failures to keep commitments, the Town has little influence over the Board for meeting its promises to the Town and its neighbors.”

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