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Community meets with Colony chaos

 

Residents filled every seat and Commissioner Jack Duncan was Skyped in for the Colony meeting.

 

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

In a Town Hall packed with residents, attorneys and staff, the Longboat Key Town Commission held a sometimes-heated workshop last Wednesday on the state of lawsuits, redevelopment rights and property maintenance regarding the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort.

The Colony remains shuddered since Aug. 15, 2010 and with no redevelopment plan or clear direction among its unit owners, the resort continues to deteriorate and aggravate neighbors.

When it came time for speakers and presentations at the Colony Workshop, Mayor Jim Brown spelled out the ground rules.

“We are here to get the facts, not ideas of what one party would like to see or who they do not like,” said Brown in an effort to keep the meeting on-point.

Association of Unit Owners Attorney Jeffrey Warren said the owners offered a settlement proposal in November 2012 and the new Bankruptcy Court proceedings are making an opportunity for settlement possible now “with or without consent of all the parties.”

“We are in the final stages of reaching an agreement with or without all the parties, but it will not matter if we have a majority. A week from now we are expecting significant changes and movement,” said Warren.

Unit owner and Board Member Stu Ross said it was clear a majority of unit owners want a global solution that would completely redevelop the Colony rather than a piecemeal or hybrid approach.

At that point, Mayor Brown asked Ross why the unit owners had not even voted on a direction they wanted to go after two years of talking about the issue.

“We have not had anything concrete to bring to them to vote on,” said Ross in response.

Ross added, “I appreciate your frustration. Everyone is paying $5,000 in dues.”

Then Commissioner Jack Duncan, who attended the meeting on a 72-inch screen TV via Skype looming over the Commission asked the Association attorney if any renovation or redevelopment whatever the approach would constitute a “material change” to the Colony and thus require 75% approval of the unit owners. Warren agreed that his understanding is that a 75% vote would be required although he said the matter is being debated internally between owners.

 

Hurting property values…

Perhaps as upset about the decaying mess as anybody is Greg Van Howe of the Aquarius Condominium Association. Howe treated the audience to slides that showed dilapidation, rot and disrepair all within 50 yards of the Gulf and the public beach. He said that the Association did little to nothing with no consequence during the first year of being closed and the conditions have worsened. He asked that private security patrols of the Colony be made a condition placed on the unit owners.

The Aquarius condominium, which borders the nearly 18-acre Colony property to the north, came to the meeting to make it clear they were fed up with the conditions, lack of progress and the continuation of the grandfathered building rights while they suffer impacted property values and pests and blight.

“The Aquarius property values have been impacted severely. We have had to increase the security at the Aquarius because we do not feel safe,” said Van Howe.

Later, Tencom Condominium representatives said they too do not feel safe with the vacant property and no security on site. The owners admonished the Town and said, “The Town cannot permit itself to be perilized.”

Another owner said there is no gate or fence to prevent anyone at all from driving in and around the Colony and asked the Town to make a plan to provide for more security at their entrance.

 

Colony founder Murf Klauber attended with his wife, Sue.

Selective compliance…

Town Manager Dave Bullock made an observation about the effort of the Association to maintain the premises and fix problems.

“When we send a notice of a violation, we may or may not get some reaction. But when we schedule a hearing in front of you, we get a lot of action,” said Bullock.

As of the morning of the April 24 meeting, the Colony property still had scores of outstanding property violations and violations of the terms of the continuance of the 232 grandfathered tourism units.

And the Town Commission extended the right to the units when the Colony parties pleaded that lawsuits precluded a rapid redevelopment. The Commission agreed to extend the grandfathered tourism units until the end of 2013 but with several property maintenance requirements as well as regular status reports. The Association also paid a performance bond to the Town.

Without the extension of the right to the tourism units, the near 18-acre resort property will revert back to its six units per acre zoning.

 

Crime is up at Colony

At the meeting, Assistant Town Manager Annie Ross reported that incidents of crime at the Colony are up and the police have had to make additional patrols and respond to additional complaints of activity.

This prompted several in the audience and a couple of commissioners to ask for private security to be in place at the Association’s expense.

After the meeting, Town Manager Dave Bullock said most of the police activities at the Colony are incidents that they would respond to whether a private security firm is in place or not.

“If suspected crime we go in investigate it. If suspected crime our obligation is to investigate. Most of the reports and incidents were generated by calls from public,” said Bullock.

Security could, Bullock said, help cut down these incidents proactively, but the Town would still respond once an incident is called in.

Bullock will be looking into the issue of requiring additional security patrols is warranted.

“We have two groups that do not feel safe with abandoned property. We have to figure out where in this scheme is the public safety obligation,” said Bullock.

 

Credibility lost…

After residents and interested parties spoke, Commissioner Terry Gans said he had heard the “Ongoing pattern of wishful thinking and that those involved have the smallest sliver of credibility.”

Gans urged that the common goal of both the Colony and the community must come first.

Commissioner Phil Younger called Gans’ allotment of a “sliver of credibility” to the Colony parties as “magnanimous.”

Younger said the Town should not be paying for increased patrols and asked what method the Town can use to shift that cost.

Commissioner Pat Zunz asked what the legal ramifications of not continuing the grandfathering of the zoning would be. Town Attorney Dave Persson said the Colony would lose its non-conforming density and the 18-acre site would have only the right to slightly more than 100 units.

Younger then asked that the Town look into its options under condemnation law.

Another point made in the meetings was by Bullock who wants the Commission to add a definition into its zoning code of “Transient Lodging.”

That word is used to define in the Town Code how Tourism units, such as those at the Colony, can be utilized. The current code states that Tourism units must be inhabited less than 30 consecutive says and must be used for “transient lodging.” There is no operating definition of the phrase and Bullock will bring one back for the Commission to consider for adoption at a future meeting.

 

Keep things separate…

Bullock said when it comes to the Town’s role in dealing with the Colony in general that there are two elements to the discussion and “you have to keep them separate.”

“There is a private dispute going on and we have no significant input into that. It will play out in civil court over time and we have no role in that. They are of interest but it is not really the Town’s affair,” said Bullock.

“But,” adds Bullock, “We have a couple of other roles; the regulatory role around property standards and then the zoning code. We are disinterested in civil disputes when it comes to administering our zoning code,” added Bullock.

Bullock says when it comes to the property maintenance issues, either the property is complying or not. But Bullock said yet another twist adds a third dimension to the Colony and that is the abandonment of the use after the resort closed.

After the meeting, Colony founder Murf Klauber said, “The big thing we have to talk about is what is great about Longboat Key — it is a simple beach-elegant island. You have to have units that are more like a house so people feel rested and having fun. No residential. You got to get someone who runs a really classy resort. That is what we need and what we have to have.”

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1 Response for “Community meets with Colony chaos”

  1. Georgie McFarland says:

    The feeling at this workshop was that if Jay Yablon, President of the Colony Homeowners Association, had showed up he would have been lynched.

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