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Commission talks Colony condemnation, junk clearing on Monday

 

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

The Longboat Key Town Commission will consider several Colony issues Monday, May 6 at 7 p.m., including options for increasing security, the removal of extraneous ‘junk,’ and defining exactly what constitutes tourism uses and what tourism uses are allowed at the now shuttered resort.

Crime considerations 
The commission will consider a statistical crime report compiled by staff that shows 32 reports of criminal activity at the Colony between 2010-13. Although almost half of the crimes are trespassing, there are also six reported burglaries, one theft, and 10 acts of vandalism noted. The year-over-year analysis shows the majority of burglaries and thefts occurred in 2013, with the numbers trending upward. Town Manager David Bullock said a Longboat Key Police Officer with a background in security conducted an analysis to determine the best days and time to focus police patrols to counter crime at the Colony. The town also made specific security recommendations including:

• A gate or locking cable a front entrance to limit vehicle traffic.

• Motion activated lights throughout the facility, subject to turtle lighting regulations.

• Motion activated cameras around the facilities.

• Installation of a fence on the Gulf side of the Colony, to limit access from the beach, as well as a fence on the east side to avoid pedestrian traffic from Gulf of Mexico Drive.

• Barriers on all deck and stairway areas.

 

Perhaps most costly to Colony owners is the recommendation that a private security firm be hired to patrol the property.

One positive in the crime report is the conclusion that there have been no indications of vagrants attempting to reside at the Colony. Bullock said there is discussion and some debate as to which of these measures can be imposed, and which are merely recommendations that could or should be followed to improve security.

 

 

Addiction to ‘junk’

Part of the problem with ‘junk’ at The Colony is the Association of Unit Owners was notified via letter by the Town Manager on March 19 that accumulated, parked or stored junk must be removed by April 12. Assistant Town Manager Anne Ross wrote that the property owner did not achieve compliance by April 12, nor did they supply the town with an action plan for compliance. At the Monday night commission meeting, commissioners will consider a resolution that will direct the Town Manager to proceed with removing the junk and assessing the cost against the property. If this resolution is passed, it could spell relief to a small degree for the neighboring residents at Aquarius and other condominium owners whose view looks out over the abandoned property. Neighbors to the south at Tencom Condominium, have complained as well.

 

Condemnation considered

Staff will also present Monday night, the process for condemnation of buildings at the Colony. In short, there are two types of property condemnation: the condemnation of a building, structure or portion thereof and the condemnation of property. The two procedures for condemning a building in the town’s code are based on either a condition of “dangerous or unsanitary buildings” or “public nuisance buildings.”

The definitions used to determine if a building is dangerous or unsanitary can be made if the structure is in a state of dilapidation, a fire hazard, abandoned or a danger to health or life.

The process requires a series of notices and actions as well as an opportunity for the owners to rectify egregious conditions.

To determine if a building is a public nuisance, the Town’s Building Official must go through a formal determination considering issues such as whether walls are leaning, there’s inadequate light, air or sanitation, fire water or wind damage, and creates a dangerous or unsanitary or threatening condition.

If the structure is found to be dangerous or a nuisance, the options include repair, if reasonably feasible, vacate, if dangerous, and demolish, if it cannot be repaired to non-violation status or it is at least 50 percent damaged or deteriorated from its original value or structure.

Before a property can be condemned, several public hearings, resolutions, and determinations must be made.

From a legal perspective, Town Attorney Maggie Mooney-Portale wrote the commission an opinion letter explaining condemnation options at The Colony.

Portale wrote that in 2006, the Florida legislature adopted statues that eliminated public nuisance abatement as a valid public purpose for the taking of property by eminent domain. The same statute, Portale wrote, also eliminated the prevention of nuisance, slum and blight as valid public purposes. She wrote that the statute does not prevent the town from adopting rules to control public nuisances, but the town cannot use eminent domain to address those conditions.

Portale said, “It is our opinion that Florida’s eminent domain laws permit the town to condemn the Colony property for certain enumerated public purposes (i.e., to become a public park, for the construction of a town building/recreational facility, a golf course, etc.).”

Portale ended her opinion letter writing that if the town did condemn the property for a public purpose, it could not convey the property to a private party until at least 10 years have passed and then only through a competitively bid process.


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