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Planning Longboat’s future moves forward in Town Hall

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

The Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board instructed staff to return with a final ordinance next month that will provide a mechanism for properties to redevelop.

The Planning Board at its Tuesday meeting gave clear direction to Planning and Zoning Board Director Alaina Ray that it now wished to see mixed use and a combination of zoning categories allowed in a Planned Unit Development (PUD).

The Planned Unit Development ordinance is a process that will allow — at least in its current incarnation — a property owner to seek approval for redevelopment to utilize creative and flexible design parameters.

In short, as Ray characterizes the PUD, it is a process in which the proposed outcome has to convince the Town that it is superior to what the property owner could develop if the underlying zoning was simply followed. For example, the current height limitation on a property could be exceeded, but the PUD process will require in trade that setbacks and open space must be increased.

The Colony Beach and Tennis Resort is a perfect example of a property that might very likely be redeveloped as a PUD.

A proposal to redevelop the Colony made by Unicorp is currently being voted on by unit owners. Unicorp President Chuck Whittal has said he plans to use a Planned Unit Development process to blend tourism and residential use in his resort plans. It is often referred to as ‘The Ritz Carlton Model.’

With the Colony moving closer to the possibility of bringing a plan to the town, it creates the need for a planning process to be in place that currently does not exist to consider such a proposal. The PUD ordinance and process is designed to be that venue.

Ray told Longboat Key News on Friday that the specific instructions that she took away from the Planning and Zoning Board and which she will incorporate into the ordinance that will be proferred next month are as follows:

• There will be no minimum acreage requirement that can be considered for a PUD and any zoning category can utilize the process.

• There is no maximum density placed on PUDs in the Planned Unit Development on Longboat Key. Density that goes beyond the underlying zoning would have to be approved by voters and the commission could then consider the request.

• The specific formula regarding additional height above what is currently allowed will require that for every additional foot in building height over what is allowed, the developer must increase the building setbacks by two feet, or add two percent additional open space to the entire site.

Ray said that it follows a planning principle in which the benefit to the community has to be double what the requested departure in height is requested.

“The overall idea is the PUD process must enhance the property and community beyond what would simply be allowed not using the PUD process. The developer or applicant has to make that argument and convince the commission and the town for approval,” said Ray.

Another goal of the town that it seeks to address in adopting a Planned Unit Development ordinance is to deal with non-conforming properties in terms of density. That simply means is most of the condominiums on the Gulf side of Longboat Key were built with far more units than are allowed on the underlying zoning. That is because much of the island was down-zoned after their development. These properties were thus made non-conforming and although the owners can redevelop more or less exactly the building they are in today under town code, the PUD process will allow architectural and site innovation as well as an opportunity to re-imagine many of the aging multi-acre residential properties in ways that could enhance property values and the market in years to come.

Ray said that the new ordinance will be considered by the Planning and Zoning Board at its November meeting.

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