First Monday in October
A term of the Supreme Court begins, by statute, on the first Monday in October. Usually Court sessions continue until late June or early July. The term is divided between “sittings,” when the Justices hear cases and deliver opinions, and intervening “recesses,” when they consider the business before the Court and write opinions. Sittings and recesses alternate at approximately two-week intervals. (Supremecourt.gov)
Now the beginning of October is not nearly as regal here on Longboat Key. It does, however, mark the unofficial beginning of the “season” when many of the part-time residents can be found here having decamped their northern, mid-western, or even foreign summer homes. As the calendar would have it this year, the 1st day of October fell on a Monday. The Town Commission’s regular monthly meeting so coincided with the opening of the Court’s term. Some here think the events are of equal import.
I made it a point to be at Town Hall at the appointed hour for that meeting. The Pledge of Allegiance started the proceedings off, as usual. Usual doesn’t mean this pledge is not important; it certainly is. The full cast of characters appeared to be in place; Mayor, six other Commissioners, Town Clerk, Town Attorney, Town Manager, assorted Staff, Press, numerous ‘Suits,’ even fewer than a dozen interested Citizens.
A New England Town Meeting this is not. The agenda looked light at first glance, until one noticed the quasi-judicial hearing for the Colony’s request for a time extension to comply with certain regulations. I thought this one would have drawn a crowd; it did not; only suits (attorneys), not even the parties.
I like to take these meetings seriously, after all I was once a member of this august body. I must admit that of late it is sometimes difficult to keep a straight face. This evening’s business started off with a first reading and public hearing on Ordinance 2012-19, Amending Chapter 158,152, Maximum Hedge Heights. See what I mean.
What struck me in the agenda note on this item was that the Planning and Zoning Board had recommended denial of this ordinance due to a number of conflicting areas that needed to be addressed. It seems that he P&Z Board had requested that Ordinance 2012 – 19 be remanded to staff for further review and amendment. The agenda, a product of the Town Manager, asked for direction to Manager. That’s not what he got. In an hour and a half discussion he actually got resolution. It passed 4 votes to 3.
It should be noted that this one might be a bit more confusing because of the personal involvement of a commissioner. Jack Duncan lives in the condominium building aggrieved by the tall hedges in question. Just what this item was doing here in light of the Planning Board’s negative recommendation is a question. Perhaps Staff felt that this one was too hot not to handle. Then too one might suggest that a member of the Commission with a personal interest might recuse himself from voting on such an issue. This may be a thought for second reading.
Two routine items followed, before the Colony case. As you know the Colony is an iconic tennis resort here on our key. Its founder/developer/owner is Dr. Murph Klauber. The property has fallen on hard times of late, with attendant squabbles between Murph and various owner groups. This is not good for our key.
The Town Zoning Code provides for property owners to file petitions to the Town Commission seeking time extensions for a legally nonconforming land use or structures. A nonconforming use not used for a period of one year is considered an abandonment of that legally nonconforming use. This is the case here. The Colony Beach and Tennis Club Association has petitioned the Commission to extend the time from December 31, 2012 through June 30, 2014. Tonight’s action is a continuation of earlier September meetings. The Commission had earlier adopted a tougher stand. Staff and Attorney prepared a Resolution (2012-07) for tonight’sconsideration. I heard that this was a done deal; not so sure.
The Staff resolution granted extension, based upon many considerations until 12/31/2015. This was amended during this session to 12/31/2013 by a vote of 7 to 0. This amended resolution was then passed unanimously by the Town Commission. Among other things the Colony must, within 30 days; maintain vermin and pest control programs; secure all unsafe buildings and stairways; restore and maintain landscaping and irrigation on the portions of its property visible to the public and neighbors in a pre-shutdown condition. Within 90 days the Colony must provide the Town with a cash bond of $50,000 guaranteeing the above items.
Most notably; the property may be redeveloped or maintained at the existing density of 237 tourism units as tourism units are defined by the Town’s zoning Code, as may be amended.
The Colony and its several factions have a lot of work to do within a shorter deadline than they may have expected.