It is time to bury the idea of the Colony
Editor & Publisher
Not all bodies are treated the same after death. Some are burned, some are buried — some lay on the forest floor picked and pulled apart by so many animals like wolves in Jack London’s worst nightmare.
That is how the former Colony Beach & Tennis Resort has met its end — torn bite-by-bite, chunk-by-chunk as if the tendrils are of no more value than some legal claim put upon them.
And now the great end seems near. We see the courts giving specifics — dates and times certain. We see Colony Lender with a dollar amount at long last — something that they wanted to establish. And we watch the mechanizations of the Association of Colony Unit Owners as if sand is falling through some great timepiece that will resolve itself in the coming months as the community watches like a desperate circus sideshow.
And our Town Commission watches and wonders, “Should we take the density away and leave them with six units per acre or 96 total units? Should we leave the density at 237 units or should we add to it so they can have perhaps 300 units? Do we really have that leverage or are we inviting the taxpayers into one grand lawsuit? How do we create leverage where no lever really exists?”
And these questions trouble the smartest of the commissioners. Even the most rational thinker is dumbfounded by the legal quagmire and swamp of unresolved claims.
It is inherent for our Town leaders to get frustrated; they have a certain sense of urgency. The life of politics can be a very short one — perhaps only two years wherein you get to make your imprint, your intaglio. In as little as two years you can be washed away from your position by a changing tide of voters. And all the great thoughts and ideas and plans you hoped to accomplish ebb just as our life ebbs, just as the Colony has faded beyond recognition into mere memories.
Yet one certainty is approaching. When the histrionics of the courtroom battles quiet what will be left at the Colony site is 18 acres of development rights and sand — the same precepts and constructs that have always been the basis of property values on Longboat Key. And that value at the Colony will likely fall between $35 and $55 million — $2 to $3 million per acre no matter how many units are built.
The value in all that has been lost at the Colony is unquantifiable. The former resort was a collective pattern of prosperity that sent money rippling and undulating through Longboat’s economy for decades. It now has the same value as that of a life ended. No amount of money can get the old Colony engine running as it once ran. There’s not enough life left in Murf Klauber to plow these fields into a great crop to be harvested. And with Jay Yablon and the Association of unit owners we have the same unity of purpose as so many Syrian rebels armed with motions and attorneys. The owners merrily enjoyed something that somebody else built and designed and developed. There was not one scintilla of creativity on their part. In what Klauber amassed and accomplished and gave to this community there’s no amount he can be repaid. Murf Klauber put the Colony on the map and Longboat Key followed.
At the end of the current chimera of Colony redevelopment, the Colony will not be redeveloped, but Longboat can still move foreword.
The Colony can never be repaired. We have to bury that idea; we have to bury the corpse of the Colony the way that you work out a horrible nightmare. It enables you to move forward and think clearly just as when we suffer the loss of a love parted or departed.
We need to bury the nostalgic idea of rebuilding the Colony that we all remember —the Stone Crab festivals, the colored buildings each with different doors and trim, Murf with his white shorts and floral pastel shirts walking around — part wild-eyed steward, part caretaker and part visionary. We remember the food — the Sunday brunch that brought families together, the lunches and dinners in the dining room looking out over the beach and the beautiful people splashing in the pools.
It is time we move forward and bury all these concepts of the Colony.
It has been said, “Let the dead bury the dead.” James Joyce added, “And let the dead marry the dead.” Both are true relative to the nostalgia and all the fantasies since of so-called Association “redevelopment partners.”
In the case of the Colony, let us watch Klauber and the Association and all these parties with standing fall off the stage in order for some field that has now lied fallow for so long prepare itself for the next generation— the next visionary.
And their time on the stage is ending; the courts are acting like a grand curtain where no one can keep jesting us interminably as the community and Commission sits like a tired out audience booing at empty buildings and emptier redevelopment proposals.
And in that context the Town Commission has a very delicate and difficult role. We need to implore our Commissioners to insist on zoning and land uses and regulations that cajole and enforce a tourism resort through granting density rights at the right time, not as right for the owner to shop around.
We should find a way to hold everything that can be given, everything of value that can be added to this site in abeyance until it is proven to the Commission and this community that someone with means and vision and skill and some quantifiable value will redevelop the site into the grandeur that it can become.
Just as the Colony has been an obstacle to Longboat Key for the last five years, this Commission needs to be an obstacle to anything that smacks of second rate. The next resort should make the Colony look like a relic of the past and it ought be so original, so renowned that the three warring parties — Klauber, the Association and Colony Lender — will come back and realize — “this is better than anything I could ever have imagined.”
And it will not happen by a so-called white knight showing up — some romance novel Fabio of redevelopment on a white horse who tries to pre-sell us on some flimsy fantasy.
Longboat Key needs to see a hand looking to wear the very finest jewel. And attached to that hand needs to be broad shoulders, a visionary eye and the kind of financial means that seeks perfection of execution. Until that happens we are living in the shadow of the past.
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