Town undertakes rewrite of land development regs

The Town of Longboat Key over the last two years has struggled rewriting some of the loosest codes in its charter. 

The Town Commission in December reviewed a fundamental land use regulation that will affect the redevelopment of the Colony and other major properties on Longboat Key in December. This regulation, the Planned Unit Development (PUD) ordinance, was then returned to the Planning and Zoning Board for further review and comment.

PUD is a process where a property owner has some flexibility in design and in development, however, must make the case that the outcome is better than if standard zoning was adhered to. A PUD allows mixed use of tourism and residential.

The ordinance is anticipated to be the method that will be utilized to redevelop the Colony since it allows elements such as restaurants, residential and tourism uses to be strategically located on a site. The goal is flexibility, but how much flexibility became a major part of the discussion among the commission.

Planning and Zoning Director Alaina Ray has discussed height limitations and setback limitations with the commission, however the goal in the majority of communities for the PUD process is extremely open so applicants can bring their desired plan to be considered and sometimes shaped.

Ray said in the ordinance there is currently a 50-foot setback from Gulf of Mexico Drive and has a height restriction of 80 feet for buildings. The Colony plan proposes 10-story residential condominium buildings, which would not be allowed if the 80-foot height restriction is kept in the ordinance.

Colony developer and Unicorp President Chuck Whittall told the commission at the meeting, “It seems like the restrictions will take away the ability for the public to weigh in on this process. You have over 20 buildings from Publix to the Key Club that are 10-15 stories high. Our plan is to add 300,000 square feet of open space, and the Colony is not like every other property, it’s 17.2 acres. I’m asking you today to not put the shackles on us, let’s take it to the voters and give us the opportunity to bring the best plan forward. Do not restrict our creativity,” said Whittall.

The Town Commission could not reach consensus on the issue of height limits, proper setbacks, nor control the issue of shade being cast on Gulf of Mexico Drive or the beach. Commissioners raised the idea of sending the topic back to the Planning and Zoning Board the issues to be examined. The Commission has given direction for the Planning and Zoning Board to provide recommendations regarding the following:

• setbacks from Gulf of Mexico Drive

• how to apply additional setbacks if height is requested

• shadow plans when additional height requested

Town Staff was instructed to return the language back to the Town Commission after the Planning and Zoning Board provides input.

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