Town talks lawsuit fallout

Associate Publisher

Planning and Zoning Board members sought answers last week to questions on subjects including the recent Islandside Property Owner’s Coalition’s (IPOC) Declaratory Relief Action and how it will affect the Hilton’s pending request for 250 additional tourism units.

On Tuesday, board members removed the second item on the agenda, which was the discussion of ordinance 2012-29, the town’s new zoning map and zoning code amendments. Instead, Town Attorney David Persson clarified the changes that need to be made in the town code as a result of the IPOC Declaratory Relief Action.

Persson explained that the reason for the removal of the agenda item was to ensure that the town’s response to the Judge’s order was thoroughly considered.

“The reason Robin (Meyer) and I asked for the removal is that we want to make sure that the response to the Judge’s order was as well thought out as possible. The Key Club plan had been passed and since then there have been patches placed upon patches to try and make the code say something that would aid that approval. This gives us an opportunity to, and requires us to think, how our code is doing and how it intends to do it,” said Persson. “The code has existed since 1984, and we tried to make it something that it clearly wasn’t intended.”

IPOC’s assertion that the code changes were illegal and not allowable under either the town’s law or Florida’s law was upheld by Judge Haworth last week. Haworth agreed with IPOC’s contention that the town illegally amended its codes after approving the Longboat Key Club’s plans. His ruling precludes the town from considering any redevelopment plan or development application at Islandside, as well as any other outline development plan until the town’s codes are fixed and in accordance with his decision.

Persson told the board that the town has to first fix the current code, and that so many changes have been made over time since it was originally created in 1984, that it is now somewhat convoluted.

“The current code was designed to address development and not redevelopment. It served its time well. But as time and philosophies have changed, it is my opinion that many unnecessary inconsistencies and redundancies have occurred,” explained Persson in a letter to the commission and Planning and Zoning Board. In the meeting, Persson added, “The purpose of the zoning code is to take the zoning code and make changes as necessary, but we don’t phase out anymore. At times if you put layers upon layers upon layers, there comes a time when the code isn’t what you want the town to be.”

The first order of business, Persson stated at the meeting, is to develop an Outline Development Plan (ODP) process, so that redevelopment can occur and the restrictions are clear.

“Two things the Judge cites are uses, more specific as to what commercial uses it can have, and what lot size, setbacks we can have. We need to make it look more like a traditional zoning district. Where we are now is that the town lost, now we have to look at this going forward,” said Persson. “The departure language is more restrictive than it was twenty years ago, but the problem is that no one challenged it before. So when the departure language was done, it was more restrictive, but he judge says it’s not restrictive enough. So now there needs to be a pullback, with the objective ability to be able to look at your code and decide what can be done. The ODP process has to be repaired, and make sure that the process is in place. The Colony and the Hilton are waiting to use this process. The process of relaxing the zoning to allow this to happen, that process now what Judge Haworth says is lost, because it needs to be more restrictive.”

The second thing Persson told the board needs to be done is to make sure that the uses of the Islandside and Harbourside at the Key Club are properly identified so that the board and the property owners can understand how small can a lot be, and what the setbacks have to be. Persson noted that the town will be looking at this with a variety of professionals.

“We’ll have to objectivity and quantify the lot sizes. The surprise to me is how you count density. Tourism units need to be counted separately and needs a vote to increase density separately. So what we need to do is several options. Address that in the code and have a provision that those uses are subject to referendum,” said Persson.

Long-term planning is critically important noted Persson, and he said that the island as a whole needs to be examined to determine which direction it plans to go.

Persson also said the town needs to put the ODP process and code changes in place so that pending applications such as the Hilton’s additional 250 unit renovation and the Colony will be able to move forward in the upcoming months.

Persson said, “We don’t have an active application in front of us. In my experience, it’s easier to work from the abstract than having something in front of us, and have pressure that we have to move quickly. But we have to put the process in place in order for the Hilton and the Colony that will be applying. The mechanism of the ODP process has to be fixed to dispense the 250 units. We have to fix the ODP process, and have a zoning code. The only way to put more stuff is to have a floating zoning district, and the Hilton could rezone it for a T20 and then the language would be in place. The other is to make the box bigger so you could fit the changes into it.”

Planning and Zoning Board Chair BJ Webb expressed her frustration at the voting process, “The uncertainty that everything goes to referendum, tells me there’s really no need for voters to elect an elected body and an appointed body, just put a key pad in everybody’s house.”


Role of the Vision Plan in town code

Planning and Zoning Director Robin Meyer said the town will hire a consultant to work with the town in formulating new codes and an ODP process.

Meyer explained, “I do not and will not have a process where the consultant comes in, goes away and comes back later with a plan. In my mind, they will interview each of you and each of the commissioners and discuss the issues. Different people are going to have different perspectives on the areas. Possible changes that need to be made policy-wise, and the ways to implement the changes.”

Board member George Symanski was unclear on the process and thought it might be redundant with the Vision Plan performed several years ago.

“I’m just not following, what’s the difference between reinventing the wheel, and the vision plan, which is what I thought the people wanted?” asked Symanski. “Are we going to ask people if they still want the Vision Plan? It seems kind of mushy. Are they going to look at the Vision Plan and see what we should do? I think we’re reinventing the wheel.”

Webb answered, “If they start sitting down with all of you and then everyone says the Vision Plan sucks and we have to start over, then we’re reinventing the wheel. If everyone were to say, ‘Oh we were just kidding.’”

Board member Walter Hackett added, “The Vision Plan is dated, and was pre-Key Club and the attitudes have probably changed since then. The main thing is that we are going to have an outside view, and I can speak for myself when I say I get caught not seeing the tree for the forest, so that outside view will be helpful.”


The Hilton

Board member John Daly asked Persson the reality of a timeframe for granting the Hilton its request of 250 additional units.

“The Hilton is trying to use some of the 250 rooms that the referendum approved, what has to be done short term to accommodate that?” asked Daly.

Persson responded, “The ODP application process has to be fixed in that case, the departure language nondiscretionary with the decision maker, the departure is a low threshold variance in that case. That should be pretty straightforward.”

Hixon asked, “I wonder if there is some way that this group can expedite so that the Hilton can have their units?”

“There are due process requirements by our code and our State law. First of all it (the Hilton plan) would have to be drafted, and then it has to be noticed and heard here and then noticed and heard twice before the town commission can adopt it. That takes time. It needs time,” answered Persson. “Urgency is what I’m detecting, and it just won’t work.”


Enter your email below to receive occasional Longboat Key breaking news eblasts and updates.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Longboat Key News

3 Responses for “Town talks lawsuit fallout”

  1. Who's on First says:

    Apparently the Colony doesn’t hold its own Board elections…..one might think if 20% are unhappy, somebody would oppose the current leadership. I’ve seen some dysfunctional condo boards, but this one takes the cake.

  2. William Kary says:


  3. Georgie McFarland says:

    What happens now to the Colony with it’s deadline of December 31, 2013 for redevelopment? Through no fault of their own, the Colony people( Murph vs. Association people) are caught between a rock and a hard place especially with a contested election of three seats on the Commission Board. In the meantime, Association members must fork up $1500.00 per unit in maintenance fees December 1st 95% of which goes to the smiling lawyer’s. So I am informed, more than 20% of the Association member’s refused to pay the last quarter’s maintenance and are ready to walk away. That # of member’s refusing to pay will increase for the upcoming quarter. What’s next?

Leave a Reply