The Colony and clearing of cockroaches, Mayoral outbursts and attorneys drill for Longboat dollars

Editor & Publisher

Shakespeare did not say gather the lawyers like tinder and burn them on a bonfire like witches. Shirley Jackson did not write in the Lottery that the townsfolk should gather in the village square and draw the name of an area attorney to stone to death. And Hitler did not advertise to town counselors scenic train rides in a rustic stock car across the Polish countryside.

Yet Shakespeare did write in Henry the Sixth about a utopian idea,  “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”

And if you were sitting at last week’s Town Commission meeting, Lynn Larson echoed the sentiments of Shakespeare’s character, Dick the Butcher, who uttered that famous line.

It all started when the Town Attorney said, “Longboat has been put on notice of potentially complex and costly litigation.”

Those kinds of words makes ones ears perk up. It is akin to a woman walking into a room and declaring, “I think I may be pregnant.”

The first impulse is to ask are we being sued or not and what is the genesis of the lawsuit and who is going to be responsible for the cost?

And the short answer is the Town.

Longboat Key is being held liable for damages resulting from boring a lateral hole about 60 feet east of Longboat Pass Bridge to bury a new 16-inch drinking water pipe. At the time the Town was drilling, the bridge’s structural piers shifted and temporary and soon permanent repairs are now needed.

That is the simple story. But it is like saying the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort aged and now it simply needs to be repaired.


Drilling for dollars

It all starts with thirst and demand. The Town and its residents use about 1.5 million gallons of water each day. That water comes via Manatee County through a 20-year-old pipe that is attached to Longboat Pass Bridge.

With the idea that the Longboat Pass Bridge will one day be replaced, the Town sought and budgeted to replace the water main.

According to the FDOT, its contracted bridge repair company, Infrastructure Corporation of America, is initiating legal action against the Town.

At the meeting, the Town Attorney was circumspect. That is wise. Once an issue is under litigation, the Town Attorney and Commission and Manager can huddle outside of the public to strategize and discuss their position.

So now the town faces litigation. It will not be the first time and won’t be the last. Special counsel will cost us; we likely will not be reimbursed. The opposition will declare that our engineer erred and the impact of drilling within the proximity of the bridge was under analyzed, underestimated or the calculations and the physics employed are challengeable.

But at the end of the day, a settlement will be reached and probably the insurer will pay that and we will pay our attorney bill.

This is the cost of water. This is the cost of litigation. And this is the costly reality when engineers and attorneys are hired to contradict each other.


Now let’s talk about the Key Club…

The Longboat Key Club, now owned by Ocean Properties, is moving ever closer to redeveloping Islandside. And while Loeb Partners Realty tread most heavily over Longboat Key’s land-use policies as well as over their neighbors at Islandside, it appears Ocean Properties is taking a far more tactful and diplomatic approach. In fact, they’re taking the approach of an end-user and that is important on Longboat Key.  After all, Longboat is a community of end users in every meaning of the word.

And when it comes to redeveloping Islandside, Ocean Properties is by all standards taking the right approach. The company is working with the Islandside property owners, winning over Bob White and it has made substantial and substantive investments in the property.

These investments are mostly apparent on the golf course with the installation of Paspalum grass, which is the Persian carpet of the golf industry. Not to mention the cart path restoration work and the complete renovation of the clubhouses.

This is the kind of commitment that breeds confidence and shows sensitivity toward those who live and enjoy the property as it is today. Remember, Loeb said it had no resources and would not spend a penny on the golf course until it could be justified through the sale of new development. We were held hostage in the quest for an approval.


Key Club should allow guests to golf

My guess is someday Ocean Properties will ask the town to modify its Tee Time lawsuit agreement and allow guests at the future renovated Hilton site to use the tennis golfing and restaurant facilities at the Club.

The idea would be to make Longboat Key truly a golfing and Tennis Resort destination. And when Ocean Properties redevelops Islandside in the coming years and adds a hotel at New Pass where the Charthouse and vacant tennis courts now exist, those visitors would be able to use the Club amenities as well.

It will be up to Ocean Properties to give the existing members who bought in with initiation fees and who pay dues at the Club some sort of special treatment or compensation preserving their tee times or maybe extending memberships in other directions. But the long-term viability of the 45 holes of golf depends on being open to visitors and I believe that approval will be given by the Town someday soon.


Ocean Properties, the Colony and Unicorp

I also believe that Ocean Properties will pursue bidding and buying the $23 million judgment against the Colony Association of Unit Owners.

It will likely come down to either Unicorp or Ocean Properties buying that judgment and closing in one way or another – peacefully and monetized or adversely and litigiously – on the unit owners.

Majority unit owner Andy Adams is stuck in the position of having to either spend a disproportionate sum to be part of the Colony future or accepting a modest return or exit strategy. He owns the most units and in many ways the most liability.

Ocean Properties can and will seek to gain control of the unit owners’ 15 acres and they will argue to the Town that they can develop the Colony like nobody else because they already have tennis and golf and restaurants at the Key Club. Ocean Properties will be able to then negotiate with Colony Lender and Unicorp’s Chuck Whittall over the remaining 2.3 acres.

But Ocean Properties will have an apt contender when it bids. Whittall and Colony Lender will also aggressively bid on the $23 million dollar judgment and if Whittall is successful in dealing with the remaining owners, Unicorp will control the whole site.

In either instance, the outcome will be positive for Longboat Key. Each scenario is a long time off – perhaps two years.  There are still many cockroaches that must be cleared from the Colony site. Their bodies lay under the gravel and in the units hiding in the broken down rafters. The whole place must be cleared and all the convalescent memories must be extinguished before either Ocean Properties or Unicorp can gain control from the flailing unit owners.

We are now witnessing the final machinations in a courtroom of Judge May and the Association of Unit Owners. They’re looking more and more like a beleaguered army, led by the legal equivalent of General Custer, decimated from a battle that cannot be won.


When the Mayor treats residents poorly

A Commission Workshop is one of those great events wherein the community gathers and gets to hear the civil discourse of their team of elected leaders.

Ideally, the Commissioners employ years of business and professional acumen, listen to the seasoned thoughts of residents and fashion policy and decisions all moving the Town of Longboat Key into a stronger future. It all sounds grand and noble. But sometimes we are as Nietzsche says, all to human. Sometimes, this ideal of civility turns into frustration, sanctimonious uttering and words of frustration. This was the case last week.

It was a case of utterly conjoining with bizarre. Mayor Jim Brown is in his final months as mayor and is term-limited out in March. One would think he would be acting civilly, wanting to leave warm and fuzzy memories and set a standard for the next mayor who will likely be Jack Duncan. But do not place your bets.

Last Wednesday, Brown engaged in what can only be described as one of his failings.

To be fair, Brown has many strengths including diplomacy and the ability to keep the peace between the outbursts of Lynn Larson, the depressive cynicism a Phill Younger, the strategical blitzkriegs of Jack Duncan and the always a-little-too-late-to-be-effective positions of Pat Zunz.

Mayor Brown’s one signature failing is his tendency to berate residents as they walk away from the podium during the Public to be Heard or when residents comment from the podium. Speakers will get up, say something and Brown will either correct them, belittle them or say something akin to,  “It would be nice if you came more often to meetings.”

This past week when Commission Candidate Larry Grossman was getting up to talk about crosswalks after the FDOT made a presentation, Brown said, “Do you have anything substantive to say or are you just here to complain about something?”

After that warm welcome, things grew even stranger.

Grossman gets up and says there’s a need for a crosswalk at a certain location but he lamented the fact that often nothing gets done, “Until someone gets hit by a car and gets killed.”

That is when former Mayor George Spoll says to Grossman from the audience, “Are you volunteering?”

You should have seen the look on Grossman’s face. He stood at the podium interrupted and bewildered. Grossman can be long-winded and convoluted, but he is never patently rude. He stared at George Spoll and said lightly, “Really?”

Then Mayer Brown, instead of telling Spoll and the audience that such remarks would not be tolerated, yelled at Grossman to “stop talking to the audience and speak to the Commission.”

It was a strange moment and one that foretold the bonds of mayors and former mayors over those who have rallied against the policy makers at various times.

In essence, the Mayor chastised Grossman as he approached the podium and then Grossman was insulted by a former mayor as he started to speak and then the current mayor, instead of defending Grossman, said nothing to the former mayor.

I hope that it was seen as a shortcoming on Brown’s part and not an acceptable way of controlling the meeting especially when you are the one with the power to bring order, to bring composure and set the standard.

If we want to see people run for office and want to see the public engaged, it should not be a humiliating experience to enter Town Hall and make a statement.

After all, it was only last month that Brown chastised Michael Drake of the Village after Drake spoke about the need for more parking controls. Brown was angry and poked as Drake left the podium.

It’s become something of a habit for Brown to metaphorically smack residents verbally on the ass as they walk away from the podium.

I hope he is treated better when he walks off from the dais one day.

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1 Response for “The Colony and clearing of cockroaches, Mayoral outbursts and attorneys drill for Longboat dollars”

  1. Georgie McFarland says:

    I like the term cockroaches and also the reference to General Custer, who as we all know from our history lesson’s lost the Battle at Little Big Horn. Flailing unit owners, is another term of endearment of those that follow blindly into yet another massacre in the making.

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