Town says dilapidated Colony structures “must be demolished”

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The Town of Longboat Key says numerous structures at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort have either collapsed or are in imminent danger of collapsing  and must be demolished immediately.

In a May 25 memo from Planning, Zoning and Building Director Alaina Ray, Ray says that during the last six years that the Colony has been vacant, the Association has provided minimal maintenance, and there has been no less than 46 criminal complaints on the property and “the appearance from Gulf of Mexico Drive and neighboring properties continues to deteriorate.”

Ray adds that there has also been “no discernable structural maintenance to the buildings or the structures on the site.”

These factors as well as rodent and pest damage and the deterioration of structural supports has led the Longboat Key Town Building Official to determine that certain structures must be demolished immediately and a report detailing the deterioration is on the agenda to be discussed at the June 6 regular commission meeting.

Ray points out in her memo that the attorney for the Colony Beach and Tennis Club Association requested on May 2 an extension of the non-conforming density at The Colony. The current extension of the non-conforming density expires on Aug. 15 of this year.

Ray explains that in 1972, a plot plan for The Colony was approved by the town commission for the development of a 237-unit tourism resort hotel on the 17.3 acres of property.

The zoning at the time the property was developed allowed fourteen units per acre, or a maximum of 242 tourism units.

The Colony closed on Aug. 15, 2010, following a bankruptcy filing, and that is when a provision in town code kicked in that says that non-conforming uses will be considered abandoned after one year if they are not exercised. However, town code allows the commission to extend the time frame for specific circumstances and that is what happened with four extensions granted since the resort’s closure.

Originally, town code limited the extensions to five years which would have made this coming August a final date for grandfathering the units. The reason the units need to be grandfathered is due to the property being rezoned in the 1980s to six units per acre. Realizing this drop-dead date embedded in town code, the town commission removed the five-year time limit last month and now the grandfathering has no limit and is at the commission’s discretion.

The town does have the ability to find the property a nuisance and go through condemnation proceedings that could eventually end in a court ordering the demolition. The town can also require increasing bond amounts to protect itself from any potential damages incurred by the Colony dilapidation.

Another option, which is what may transpire at Monday’s meeting, is to require the demolition of the dilapidated structures as a condition for approving the grandfathering that is set to expire in August 2016 unless the town offers another continuation.

Unicorp President Chuck Whittall, who controls 2.2 acres at the site comprised of the spa, restaurant, and recreational amenities said that he is agreeable with demolishing his assets and if the unit owners approve his company’s development proposal, will proceed to demolish the rest of the site.

The town will discuss the building official’s report at 7 p.m. at the Monday, June 6 regular commission meeting.

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