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Longboat north-end hotel up for discussion Monday

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

In the face of mounting criticism from the community over traffic concerns, the Longboat Key Commission will consider this week ballot language that will allow a developer to build a 120-room hotel on vacant property located just south of Broadway on the north Key.

The 2.62-acre site that Floridays Development Company wishes to use for a hotel is comprised of vacant land, a former bank building and the dilapidated gas station — all of which now sit on a parcel stretching from Broadway to the north end of Whitney Beach Plaza.

Three separate acts must occur for the hotel to be permitted.

First, a majority of Longboat Key voters must approve allowing tourism units on the site.

The site is currently zoned commercial except one of the parcels is zoned office and neither of these zoning categories allows dwelling units. By town charter, dwelling units can only be added by the approval of a majority of voters in a referendum. This rule was enacted as a means to control growth and development and the resultant traffic on the primarily residential island.

Secondly, the commission would have to agree to rezone the property and change the future land use map of the comprehensive plan to allow the tourism zoning. Right now, the most density that is allowed in a tourism zone is six units per acre. That would allow only 15 units to be built on the site unless another action is approved by the commission.

The final action to allow a 120-unit hotel on the 2.62-acre site is the commission must agree to allocate an additional 105 units out of the approved pool of tourism units that it can in its discretion grant to an applicant. The pool was originally 250 units and was created and approved by voters after the Holiday Inn closed several years ago.

Floridays told the commission last month that his company needs to hold the referendum in August of this year because it has a contract to purchase the parcels contingent on voter approval.

If voters are willing to approve the zoning change to allow a 120-unit hotel on the site, it will be the most dense hotel and tourist development on all of Longboat Key. The former Hilton, which is currently being redeveloped as the Zota Beach Resort, had 103 units on 4.46 acres. It is now closed for redevelopment and is adding 84 new units and when it opens in the fall will grow to 187 units on 4.46 acres, which is a density of 41.9 units per acre.

The Colony operated for more than 40 years with 237 units on 17.2 acres, which translates to 13.8 units per acre.

If Floridays is successful at building 120 units on the site, it will have a density of 45.8 units per acre.

Many residents have written the commission expressing concern that at a time when the Colony and former Hilton have been closed and will one day reopen, the island has suffered through a busy season and witnessed traffic backups on both ends of the island.

When the Colony reopens, the developer will have a grandfathered right to 237 units, and when the Hilton reopens it will have 187 units, all of which will compound the traffic conditions. Additionally, the Longboat Key Club owners were approved to build 300 additional units that they already have the right to develop at Islandside.A site plan to develop those units is expected at any time in Town Hall.

At the meeting scheduled for Monday, April 4 at 7 p.m., the town commission will consider the referendum language that will ask voters to allow the tourism zoning and the ability to apply for the additional tourism units.

While many residents have cited traffic as a reason to oppose the plan, others see it as the first developer who has come along with a viable plan to clean up the north entrance of the Key and add potential economic stimulus to the neighboring Whitney Beach Plaza.

“It’s kind of a catch-22 situation,” Commissioner Phill Younger told Longboat Key News.

“this is the first proposal that is hovering with its blades rotating. If I had my preference you would see these parcels combined with Whitney Beach Plaza and it would be redeveloped as mixed use with condominiums. I would shrink the commercial space at Whitney Beach to about 10,000-12.,000 square feet,” added Younger.

Younger raised a concern and said, “What they showed is just a simple rendering and only a simple concept. What they finally present could look a lot different. I think the acreage is small, but I’m in wait and see mode. As a commission we are not discouraging them, we are just sitting there.”

Some members of Save Longbeach Village Association attended a March 15 meeting with Floridays at the Ringling Art Center to hear the details of the plan.

At the meeting, Floridays’ representatives James Brearley and Angus Rogers said the proposed hotel would be 3+ stars with a $200 per night average room rate. They did say at the meeting that the drawings were conceptual and the final look could change from the current rendering.

The entire referendum question that will be considered is the 14th item on the Town Commission’s April 4 agenda. Residents who are interested or concerned are encouraged to attend the 7 p.m. meeting at Town Hall, 501 Bay Isles Road.

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5 Responses for “Longboat north-end hotel up for discussion Monday”

  1. Roland says:

    I honestly do not believe the construction of this hotel is in the best interest of a good future for LBK.

  2. bob says:

    LBK could use some quality development on the north end of LBK. That said,the density of the proposed hotel is a real issue since it would be the highest density on all of LBK. There are many additional issues including the small sewage pump station that would have to be expanded to handle the needs of such a large hotel. Then there is traffic that would likely be far worse with up to 400 people at that hotel on sold out days. Others have pointed out trash, noise and other problems that come with vacationers who are coming to party.

    I have a few suggestions. First, raise the price to $300 per night and decrease the number of rooms by a third. This gives a less dense footprint and lower flow of people coming and going.
    Second, be sure that the company pays for the beaches at the same rate that residence on the west side of Gulf of Mexico Dr. do. The hotel will have a big impact on the beach and they should pay for that. They also need to pay for improvements that will be needed to support that hotel. For example the proposed traffic circle or crosswalks as well as the upgrade to the pumping station. What else could the company provide to local residence who will be negatively impacted even by a reduced density of hotel units? Maybe their hotel pool should be open to N side residence, perhaps they should open the restaurant and coffee shop in Whitney Plaza instead of in the hotel so that the public would also have some new options.

    I doubt the company would like these changes but we really don’t need development if it doesn’t pay its ways, benefit locals and improve LBK in general. In other words there is good development and bad.

    WIth these points in mind and others that have been made, the proposed referendum language could be more limiting at the start of this process. Why go though all of the time and effort if the proposed initial size and context of the hotel does not fit the site or the context that people who live here think is reasonable? Perhaps the language should acknowledge the kind of reasonable development that is wanted by the citizens of LBK right from the outset. We don’t need another all or nothing decision at the voting booth.

  3. David says:

    Catherine and James and Susan: I own property on Longboat and I think the hotel would be great. Develop Whitney square while we are at it so I don’t have to drive off the key for food and beverage.People never quit whining on the key..it is so boring listening to it all the time!

  4. Catherine says:

    The reason Longboat Key has been so desirable for my family, is the residential feel. If I want more tourist, razzmatazz or garbage on the beach, I can go to Anna Maria or Siesta Key. Too small of a space for a 120 unit hotel. If they do allow a hotel it should be no more than 80 rooms and I almost think it should be individually owned condos instead. There’s something to be said for pride of ownership and managed guests.

  5. James and Susan Lindner says:

    We as residents of a Whitney Beach condo experienced the traffic first hand these past two months while in residence.allowing such a large hotel would only add to the traffic and the dangerous situation that would exist for renters to cross the Gulf of Mexico Drive to go to their allocated Beach. Seniors walking across this stretch need more time and the addition of added traffic could endanger their lives. If you have ever seen the line of traffic beginning at 3:00 p.m.on most days heading off the North end of the Island, you would never agree to the addition of more renters in a new hotel.not to mention 120 plus more individuals straining the already precious Eco system and beaches. This hotel should not be allowed to come to fruition!

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