Colony granted 12-month extension
Editor & Publisher
The Longboat Key Town Commission granted a 12-month extension to allow the grandfathering of the 237 tourist units at the Colony continue with a myriad of conditions to force the owners to clean up the dilapidated property and maintain landscaping.
The commission initially considered a three-year extension to allow time for control of the property to be determined, but Colony founder Murf Klauber’s attorney Charles Bartlett argued that granting a 36-month extension will almost guarantee that the Colony will not be rebuilt for up to six years, and would give the Association of Unit Owners the ability to stall the process.
“If you wait until the Colony lawsuits are resolved, and give the Association a free pass, all it does is play into the plan of the Association to starve Dr. Klauber out and hope he dies before it can be worked out,” said Bartlett.
Longboat Key Commissioner Jack Duncan told Bartlett that all the commission has on the table is a request for an extension.
“The only card we hold is the ability to take away density,” informed Duncan.
Bartlett agreed but said he is concerned that the issue of possession of the units will be resolved far earlier than the rest of the claims involved between the parties. Bartlett suggested the commission grant a much shorter term to “keep the pedal to the metal on the parties involved.”
While the commission came to agree with Bartlett, resident Larry Grossman thought the commission was getting far “too much in the weeds” on the issue.
“I don’t think you should give them this long a leash, you should stop doing a contract you have no way of enforcing,” said Grossman.
Commissioner Duncan asked Grossman, “When you take away those units, who’s going to cover all the lawsuits?”
Duncan referred to the idea that if the town does not grandfather the units and grant an extension, it could be sued for taking away property rights. But for Grossman, it is an issue of following the very rules the town has written and adopted.
“That’s what we ask you to do – enforce the rules. Is that the basis for your decision-making, is you’re afraid of getting sued? You can get sued on anything,” said Grossman.
Commissioner Lynn Larson returned to Bartlett’s concerns.
“If we give them an open-ended extension, nothing’s going to happen. Nothing happens if we don’t hold their feet to the fire,“ said Larson.
For Commissioner Pat Zunz, the issue of allowing an extension is the question of whether the town can afford to have an undeveloped mess for so many years.
“We already have a blighted area on the north end of the key. Can we afford two very blighted areas, going on for years and years? Because I’m not sure we’re doing the right thing,” said Zunz.
Mayor Jim Brown expressed sheer frustration at the lack of progress at the Colony.
“Two hundred some people have been kicked out of their homes, now Klauber is out of his home. What does it take to get your attention?” Brown asked.
Commissioner Duncan said the whole issue of an extension or not is a moot point.
“I don’t’ think holding the hammer over them will do anything to get them off of the dime,” said Duncan.
Commissioner Terry Gans then amended the resolution allowing a 12-month extension instead of a 36-month extension.
The town commission ultimately adopted an extension until Dec. 31, 2013, for a final determination to be made on who legally controls the Colony including the entire site composed of the units, the restaurant, tennis courts, mid-rise building and outparcels.
Within 90 days after the determination of who controls the Colony, whoever is in control must submit a complete redevelopment plan for re-opening the Colony. Once the plan is then approved by the Town Manager, an additional extension will be granted for 36 months from the date of plan approval if the plan is to construct all, or substantially all, new buildings. If the plan is to renovate and reopen the existing buildings, the additional extension shall be for 12 months from the date of plan approval.
The commission has made it clear that it vastly prefers a newly built Colony rather than a renovation and the time frames support that initiative.
The resolution also addresses the vermin and visual blight issues that have offended the neighbors at the Aquarius condominium as well as commissioners who have expressed outrage over the lack of attention placed on keeping the property in order and preventing the visual decay of the site from encroaching on the rest of the well-manicured key.
Within 30 days of adoption of this resolution, the Colony parties must maintain vermin and pest control programs that must be reviewed and approved by the town; secure all unsafe buildings and stairways; restore and maintain landscaping and irrigation that are visible to neighbors to a pre-shut down condition. To make sure these conditions are met, the town is requiring a $50,000 cash bond.
The commission received the request to extend the grandfathering in July and while the commission agreed unanimously that it wishes to keep the unit count and encourage a redeveloped Colony, it has struggled over the past month on the length of time for an extension and how to best cajole the parties into resolution. If the commission had not extended the Dec. 31 deadline, the Colony would revert back to its former zoning of 6 units per acre, thereby losing its current 237 grandfathered units, and instead allowed to have about 120 units.