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Colony offers under review

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

When it comes to the future of Longboat Key, one issue transcends all others and that is what and when will be redeveloped at the property where the historic Colony Beach and Tennis Resort operated for more than 40 years.

Optimism exudes from Colony Association of Unit Owners President Jay Yablon who hopes to offer a recommendation by the end of winter as to which of two redevelopment proposals make the most sense in the eyes of the Board of Directors.

To that end, Yablon and fellow board members have been negotiating with Unicorp and its President Chuck Whittall as well as the other development suitor, Manfred Welfonder and the Naples-based Lutgert Companies.

Whittall offered last December to pay owners $126,000 per unit for an outright sale and an additional $200,000 premium for waterfront units. Those who do not wish to sell would receive a credit toward a 30-day vacation slot, which the former unit owner would own as a fractional.

Welfonder last December offered unit owners participation in owning a unit at a redeveloped hotel, which would be placed into a rental program. The owners would enjoy 30 days of vacation stay and a management company would rent it out for the rest of the year. Welfonder also offered to buy units but made no specific offer as to the amount per unit.

In the month since these proposals were made, Yablon told Longboat Key News that the negotiations have been intense and ongoing. Yablon added that owners cut both ways with some wanting to divest their interest and sell and others seeking time at a redeveloped resort.

Welfonder has been a steady presence on the periphery as the myriad of lawsuits at the Colony between the Association of Unit Owners, Unicorp and Colony Lender, and former Chairman Murf Klauber’s Bankrupt Estates played out.

Whittall and Unicorp have an advantage in that they own and control 2.3 acres of the original 17.2-acre resort. Colony Lender and Unicorp bought the recreational amenities, tennis courts and restaurant and that presents a tangible point of leverage in negotiating.

In another sense, Whittall has to overcome the fact that he has battled the Association of Unit Owners in protracted legal disputes over the past years whereas Welfonder has positioned himself as a willing partner throughout that period.

Yablon said that the election of a new board of directors last December has fashioned a desire to get something done in choosing a developer and moving forward in this calendar year. Yablon says there is no more game-changing litigation now that the Klauber suits are resolved.

“Unicorp’s real leverage is the restaurant and 2.3 acres and not the threat of litigation from the recreational lease. That is phony leverage. I feel that Whittall has gotten beyond the pretense of fake leverage from fake lawsuits and has moved to the real leverage and that is better,” said Yablon.

Yablon said he hopes the new board will finish vetting the redevelopment proposals and by end of winter offer recommendation for the unit owners to vote on.

“We would then have to explain to the owners the basis for our decision and recommendation,” said Yablon.

Yablon said that what will become integral in moving forward is the support of majority unit owner Andy Adams. Adams owns more than 25 percent of the original Colony units, and under condominium law can block any vote for redevelopment of the property. Yablon says that the board is going to make its best recommendation and not wait for Adams to necessarily drive the process.

Ocean Properties, which owns the Longboat Key Club and the former Hilton Hotel on Longboat Key, has also been on the sidelines over the past years and has expressed interest in redeveloping the property. Yablon said Ocean Properties and its President Mark Walsh would have to act quickly if it too wants to be in consideration to redevelop the Colony.

On a personal level, Yablon says the almost six years the Colony has been closed, it has not diminished his desire to own once again an operating unit and get back to the beach that he loved for many years.

“Personally, I am not in this to make money off my unit, but only to get back on that beach. I now have two married kids and expect grandkids and this is where I want us to all get together to vacation. That’s why I am working so hard at this,” said Yablon.

 

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1 Response for “Colony offers under review”

  1. Carl Baxter says:

    The Colony was our family’s special place. We returned there for 30 years as a retreat and celebration destination. We are not owner’s just visitors. Writing to Katie Moulton in 2008 to express my concern for the lack of maintenance and upgrading with the hopes of seeing the planned $20 million renovation work in progress on my next visit. I continue to wish for a re-opening and return to all those memorable experiences. The loss of revenue to Longboat Key and Sarasota County should be plenty of incentive for local officials to expedite the process back to full resort operations.

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