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Longboat Key Letters – Week ending April 28, 2017

Longboat Key News encourages Letters to the Editor on timely issues. Please email to: letters@lbknews.com or mail to PO Box 8001, Longboat Key, FL 34228. We also print letters sent to Town Hall that address Longboat Key issues. We reserve the right to edit.

Colony plan a waste of time

To: Editor

There has always been question about whether Unicorp has the money to fund its $500 million development.

I have asked about this many times and gotten different answers with no firm indications that the money is at hand. It is no small task to raise this kind of money, especially for a developer who has no experience with a large-scale resort. People who would put up this kind of money are not likely to deal with Unicorp.

There are about 50 major resort developers in this country and Unicorp is not one of them.

Normally when a developer seeks to terminate an existing condo association, the developer will buy up 90 percent of the units and terminate the condo…this has happened many times in Florida.

But Unicorp has not done this.

Court papers submitted during the appeal of the recent lawsuit concerning the recreation lease, (which we won) have revealed that Unicorp has not paid for the 2.3 acres and, if they don’t pay the rest by this June, Colony Lender can take the property back. If Unicorp had the money in the first place, they would have paid in full.

It is very unusual that Colony Lender and Unicorp did not register the mortgage and monies owed on the public record, when the deed was recorded. Looks like they were trying to hide something, and they were.

Unicorp’s recent plans to construct 103 residential condos and apply for 165 tourist units from the pool authorized by the voters in 2008, contravenes the intent of the voters in the 2008 referendum which was voted on to replace lost tourist units, not take them away — as Whittall proposes.

Unicorp’s “ingenious” plan would leave 165 tourist units at the Colony when there are now 237.

No doubt about it, if a developer goes back to the underlying T6 zoning > 103 residential units and applies for (additional) tourism-units, there will be lawsuits against the town.

Moreover, the anti-density groups on LBK have not signed on to Unicorp’s proposals.

The Colony Board should declare the deal with Unicorp null and void.

It is all a waste of time which delays legitimate developers with money from bidding.

There are at least three qualified developers who want to develop the Colony, but Unicorp is standing in the way while they engage in a wild goose chase to get the zoning and the density, so that they can raise the money they need.

Very sad waste of two years with a wannabe developer

Blake Fleetwood 

Colony Board Member

 

Roundabouts only work  with light traffic

To: Editor

I come from West Bloomfield, Michigan, where they have many roundabouts; and they only work where there is light traffic. In heavy traffic areas, they are a disaster. The older people don’t know how to drive around them and there are many accidents. Please try to prevent FDOT officials from going ahead with a roundabout at Gulfstream & 41.

Doreen Lichtman

Longboat Key

 

Roundabouts not suitable…

To: Editor

As a resident of Longboat Key I am very concerned at the prospect of a roundabout at the intersection of Gulf Stream and US41. Having lived for years in England, I am familiar with roundabouts and can affirm that they are suitable for intermediate traffic density. If one feeder road has effectively a continuous traffic stream, the system collapses and I have to conclude that this particular intersection meets such a criterion for the most critical periods of each day. Unless re-routing is possible, I believe lights are the best available solution.

I am sure that appropriate traffic flow modeling can address the question but only if it is applied blindly from measured traffic density and not if the results are “corrected” as we have seen so often with global warming data.

Philip Alsop

Longboat Key

 

Bicycle safety and GMD plans

To: Commissioner Jack Daly

I have had an opportunity to review the GMD Corridor study and would like to address the issue concerning bicycle safety. As you are well aware, in the last year there have been at least two very serious bicycle accidents on Longboat Key with a dozen other mishaps. Longboat Key is a beautiful place to ride a bike especially in the designated bike lanes for serious bikers. Weather permitting, I ride from the south end of Longboat to the north end and back at least five days a week. There have been numerous studies addressing the issue of painted bike lanes.

I have attached a copy from the National Association of City Transportation Officials which addresses urban bikeway design guide.  The result is it increases the overall visibility to traffic, discourages illegal parking in the bike lane, increases motorists yielding behavior to bicycles, and helps reduce bicycle conflict with turning motorists.  There are additional studies which show that a simple white line separating a traffic lane from a bike lane is not much of a deterrent to a motorist.  Motorists will hug the right side of a traffic lane and often times go into the bike lane.  When the bike lane is painted, the bike lane then becomes a designated lane that traffic will not encroach into.

It is also with interest that I see on your video concerning the Gulf of Mexico Drive, that a roundabout is being considered.  I think that the fact that we only have one traffic light at Bay Isles where there is the only high volume of traffic entering the shopping area speaks to the fact that a roundabout really would have no beneficial affect.  In addition, I note that the bike lane ends at the roundabout and the biker is then directed onto the sidewalk area and then back into the bike lane, which I think would be a safety issue for the bicyclist.  I fail to understand why the bike lane isn’t continued through the roundabout if that design is seriously being considered.

Again, relative to the painted lane, all the Commission needs to do is go over to the streets around the Ringling College of Art & Design where they utilize the bike lanes for the students’ safety and the public’s awareness of bicyclists.

Ronald J. Gricius

Longboat Key

 

Support for Colony redevelopment

To: Mayor Terry Gans, P&Z Chair BJ Bishop

Initially my wife and I were opposed to the development of the Colony location as originally proposed by Unicorp. The heights of the units as well as the potential increase in traffic seemed overwhelming. Specifically, the heights of the units seems to dwarf any of the nearby condominium complexes.

However, with the concessions made by Unicorp (max height 80 ft. – 6 and 7 stories) and reducing the size of the convention center by 25 percent over the original proposal, the new design more closely mimics the laid back island ambiance which is why we moved to Longboat Key.

In addition, with these concessions, it is our hope something can be developed at this site that will eliminate the blight that has been present for seven years, both from appearance and a health issue.

John and Anne Swengel

Longboat Key

 

Aquarius Club Condominium owner supports Unicorp Plan

To: Town Commission

We have been unit owners at the Aquarius Club for over 40 years and have loved our vacation getaway. Our family truly enjoys our visits to your community. We call it “our little piece of Heaven.”

How disappointing it has been to see the demise of the Colony — a wonderful resort in better times.

We have been informed that an important meeting will take place on May 1 when the first reading of the Planned Unit Development ordinances will be presented. Regrettably, health issues prohibit us from attending.  As we are concerned about future development of the adjacent property, we respectfully request that you consider the following comments:

We supported the views of Preserve Longboat, Inc. PAC.  As you know, Unicorp’s first proposal was 120-140 feet about the FEMA flood line. The density referendum failed. Unicorp then came back with a more reasonable maximum height of 80 feet, which we support. We understand the current PUD limit is 65 feet. Architecturally and aesthetically, adding 15 feet would provide more attractive and valuable units.

Tencon joined Aquarius and Unicorp in ways to accommodate the needs of all parties. Unicorp has agreed to the following:

1. Gulf setback at least 185 feet landward from the Erosion Control Line in lieu of the 150-foot setback from the ECL per LBK code.

2. Side setbacks of at least 70 feet which is greater that the original 50-foot proposal.  We have been assured that the neighboring building would be no less than 140-feet from our building. The Aquarius view of the gulf would be improved.

3. The developer has agreed to reduce the size of the ballroom by 25 percent which should reduce the traffic concerns.

4.  Aquarius owners would be deeded use of the new development’s amenities-pools, workout room, and water park.

The developers revised plan shows greater sensitivity to noise abatement with enhanced landscaping and the re-routing of service road and hotel entry away from the Aquarius.

Having reviewed the revised plan, we believe Unicorp’s proposal will forever correct the unsavory conditions at the former Colony site. It is the highest and best use for this property. Many contiguous properties will benefit from this.

Please give favorable consideration to this proposed development.

Thank you for your leadership and time.

Anita and Joseph Hara

Longboat Key

 

In support of 80-foot height limit

To: Town Commission

We are writing in regard to the commission meeting on Monday, May 1.

We have been owners at the Aquarius for many years. Our unit faces the Colony property.

We support 80 ft limit above the FEMA flood line. We also support the limit of 165 hotel rooms from the LBK tourism pool.

I do believe that Unicorp has been listening and cooperating with our concerns.

We believe that this would be a positive move for the island. Thank you for your consideration.

Jim and Sue McConnell

Longboat Key

 

Support for new Colony

To: Town Commission and P&Z Board Members

I am writing this email with the understanding that it will reach all Commissioners involved.

My name is Michelle Morneau. I own three units at the Aquarius Club on Longboat Key.

At 48 years of age, I look back on the Aquarius as a place of residence with my family since age 7. Through the years I have visited the Aquarius at least annually and today, while I am primarily a Swiss resident, my husband and I and my four children look to Longboat Key as a wonderful holiday place, a future retirement haven and a place of family connection which flows from generation to generation.

I grew up enjoying and benefiting from the adjacent Colony facility. I have viewed it with sorrow these last seven years as our boys have been unable to benefit from the facility. Now we have a real opportunity to realize a renewal of this current derelict resort. I very much hope that you, our commissioners, will encourage and provide the required flexibility to make this new project viable.

Chuck Whittall requires only two concessions on this prime property to effect a five star complex so beneficial to us all on the Key. He requires permission to build to a height of 80 feet. This is only 15 feet higher than previously discussed at commission and is slightly over the Aquarius and Tencon height and less than many of the condominiums that are in relative close proximity.

Mr. Whittall desires your granting of at least 150 tourist units out of the available pool of 165.

Through extensive and extremely cooperative negotiations with the immediate neighbors, Tencon and Aquarius, vital concessions to his plan following the referendum have been a success.

After seven years of having a less than desirable situation next door, please now allow us to see a fully established new “Colony” for all of the Key.

Thank you very much for your consideration and hopeful implementation of this request.

Michelle Morneau

Longboat Key

 

Unicorp’s new plan reasonable

To: Town Commission

I am writing in regard to the commission meeting on Monday, May 1 when there will be a first reading of the Planned Unit Development (PUD) ordinances dealing with maximum height and other restrictions.

I am an owner of 3 condominium units at the Aquarius complex, immediately adjacent to the subject property. I am in support of the joint agreement that has been reached between Unicorp, Aquarius Condominium Association and Tencon. I urge you to  approve the Unicorp proposal for the mixed use redevelopment of the Colony resort for the following reasons.

One of the reasons we supported the views of Preserve Longboat, Inc PAC prior to the density referendum in March was the excessively tall buildings, 120-140 ft abov FEMA flood line, proposed by Unicorp. (All heights to follow are above FEMA flood line.)

Fortunately, after the density referendum failed, Unicorp came back with a more reasonable plan with 80 ft high buildings, a substantial reduction. While the current PUD limit is 65 ft, we support the Planning and Zoning Board recommendation to the Commission that the limit be set higher by 15 ft to 80 ft.

The extra height will allow buildings like those proposed for the Colony site to have floors with 10 ft ceilings, rather than just the 8-9 ft ceilings in older buildings. With this as background, you should be aware of our ongoing discussions with Unicorp to explore ways which would benefit all parties while complying with all pertinent regulations. In concert Tencon joined Aquarius in these discussions.

Unicorp has been very cooperative and we have reached a binding agreement among the three parties. In exchange for Aquarius and Tencon owner support of Unicorp’s plans going forward, Unicorp has agreed to the following:

• Gulf setback at least 185 ft landward from the Erosion Control Line in lieu of the 150 ft setback from the ECL per LBK code

• Side setback of at least 70 ft (versus 50 ft before) from the lot line placing our building at least 140 ft from the hotel structure. The combined gulf and side setbacks will significantly improve our line of sight from the Aquarius building to the gulf as compared to the previous site plan.

• Reduction by 25 percent of the ballroom size to reduce traffic

The setbacks are very important for preserving the views we currently have at Aquarius, and therefore, maintaining our property values.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Frank A. DeQuattro

Longboat Key

 

In support of Colony redevelopment

To: Town Commission

We are longtime owners of two apartments at the Aquarius Club.  We understand our Board of Directors have reached an agreement with Unicorp endorsing an 80-foot high building in the redevelopment. We are in agreement with the decision of the Board.

Fran and John Pollina

Longboat Key

 

The difference between High vs. Tall

To: Commissioner Jim Brown

Jim, do you understand the difference between how high something is, as opposed to how tall it is?

I used the CCS example as a commonly understand example of resident’s perceptions of structures that are out of character with the surrounding neighborhood.  It does not matter where one makes bad decisions, the visual impact is the same.

I think it would be useful to talk about how tall the proposed buildings will be (feet above the ground) instead of an abstract height that may represent only 60 percent of how tall the building will be above the ground.

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

Brown responds

To: Gene Jaleski

Sorry Gene, I don’t understand your point. Somehow you talk about clarity but you cloud the question with superfluous information. I don’t think you really understand what is being proposed. Ordinance 2016-32 has nothing to do with the height of homes in CCS. There is nothing in the ordinance that deals with single-family neighborhoods. Also, the discussion is about 65 feet in PUDs versus 80 feet.

Jim Brown

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

To: Commissioner Jim Brown

Commissioner Brown, you repeatedly say that those who question your rebuilding ordinance do not understand what you sere saying. In some cases that may be the case. I was taught that before any debate there needs to be agreement about the definitions of the various terms and concepts to be debated.

Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world, but Mount McKinley is the tallest mountain. Commissioner it might be useful to talk about the relative appearance of a building, rather than its technical height. Relative appearance includes surrounding structures, and even the surrounding neighborhood silhouette.

People want to know how tall a building will look, and that is its absolute height above the ground.

On Monday, the commission will decide about some abstract concept of 60 feet or 80 feet in height. How tall the building is is another matter that includes FEMA regulations and an additional ten feet for stairs and equipment. The height you are discussing may be as little as 60 percent of how tall a building end up being.

People are interested in visual aesthetics, not technicalities. The too tall houses in CCS are examples of the different perceptions that exist between the commission and many residents.

There is little justification for allowing 100+ structures to replace our very successful low profile residential community. To argue that we must allow developers to maximize their profits is a betrayal of all those who have invested in Longboat based on its present ambiance.

Commissioner, what you are proposing is the creation of another Marco Island. I believe that the great majority of our property owners would be opposed to 2016-32/35 if they knew what was going on.

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

We support Unicorp Plan

To: Mayor Terry Gans

While my wife and I will be at the May 1st council meeting, we nonetheless offer this brief email in support of the new Unicorp proposal for the prior Colony property.

We, the Morneau family, are original owns at the Aquarius Club, first purchasing in 1975. We own ten condos for family utilization. We have been active in the area through among other things, the Longboat Key Club and a life membership at the Sarasota Yacht Club. I just recently completed over twelve years as President of the Aquarius Association. We have lived through all of the Colony concerns over the last seven years and like so many others, are enthused to see a breadth of light at the end of the tunnel with an anticipated new Colony facility.

After being President of Preserve Longboat, Inc., the PAC that assisted with the Colony referendum defeat, I was pleased to see Chuck Whittall contact Tencon and Aquarius to develop a mutual understanding of a new complex on the old property. A significant number of us, with full cooperation from Chuck Whittall, have concluded on a binding agreement and support undertaking to bring the old Colony back to life; to the benefit of the neighbors and the whole of the Key.

Note:

–    ECL setbacks have been increased to 185 ft.;

–    Side setbacks have been increased to 70 ft.;

–    Conference center reduced in size by 25%;

–    Side service roads eliminated;

–    Memberships extended to the two neighboring condo’s to enhance community involvement; and

–    A traffic analysis clearly indicates no additional traffic beyond that at present.

We, Tencon and Aquarius, are in support of the town extending Unicorp the understood 165 tourist units out of the pool. We further encourage allowances for an 80 ft. height above FEMA, which is but one floor above the towns current discussed but not confirmed 65 ft. level. This height is also not out of uniformity with many of the condo’s in the area.

With both of the above, our clear analysis is that a valued five star new facility can be accomplished, with mixed condominium and tourist use, to the benefit of all.

The plan will not be out of proportion to the area. The density issue is under control. The traffic concerns are abated. Actual utilization with 103 condo units and 165 tourist units is below that of the prior 237 pure tourist units.

After seven years of pain for all of Longboat Key; a huge time investment for commissioners and town staff and obviously a disastrous situation for Colony neighbors, we plead for cooperation and encouragement by you, our commissioners, and the board members of the P&Z.

You are unanimously supported by the Aquarius and Tencon Boards relative to all of the above. We have done our best and we now request your positive vote on the Unicorp request.

W.F. (Frank) Morneau Sr.

Longboat Key

 

In support of the Colony

To: Mayor Terry Gans

As the owners of a condo in The Aquarius Club, next to the now shuttered Colony, we should like to let you know that we are in full support of Unicorp’s recently revised plan for redevelopment of The Colony, including support for the 80-foot maximum (above the FEMA flood line) height, as well as the allowance to use 165 units from the Town’s tourism pool. Residents of Aquarius also expect to receive additional concessions from Unicorp in exchange for our support for this current proposal.

Lois and George Graboys

Longboat Key

 

Maximum Height in Proposed 

PUD Ordinance

To: Commissioner Randy Clair

First, congratulations on your appointment to the Longboat Key Town Commission.

I am the president of Preserve Longboat Inc., the 501(c)4 that is continuing the work that was begun by the PAC that worked to bring issues relating to the Colony redevelopment to the town’s voters ahead of the March 14 referendum.  We remain concerned about the continued effort to over-develop the Colony property and the effect that that effort might have on the entire Key.

I am writing regarding our concern over the PUD ordinance that will receive its first reading at the May1 Commission meeting and specifically regarding the height limitation contained therein.

The zoning code and comprehensive plan are indeed complicated and difficult for the layman to understand.  I appreciate the effort that the staff and the Commission have put into trying to find a solution that gives the properties that were rendered nonconforming by the 1984 down-zoning an opportunity to improve themselves.  Doing so can only be a benefit to all of us who are residents of the Key.

As you are undoubtedly aware, prior to your appointment the commission, by consensus, wisely asked that the height limit in the proposed PUD ordinance be 65 feet above base flood elevation, a reduction from the 80 feet that was originally in the language. Our concern is that there may be an effort to raise the height limit contained in that proposed ordinance from 65 feet above base flood elevation back up to 80 feet.

While the March 14 referendum regarding the Colony redevelopment was not exclusively focused on the question of height, in our opinion its 87 percent to 13 percent defeat by voters is an indication of the opinions of residents of the Key in the matter of height.  Consider that that overwhelming defeat of the proposal came after the Colony developer’s well-publicized reduction of the height of their proposal to around 80 feet.

We are concerned that the Colony developer, in an effort to get the height needed for their proposal, might attempt to change the language in the proposed ordinance back to 80 feet.  As part of this attempt, we also believe that the two small neighbors immediately adjacent have been promised accommodations in the design in return for their support of the 80-foot height limit.

I needn’t point out to you that the very narrow interests of these parties certainly don’t justify raising the height limit for the entire Key. There are just 23 registered voters at the two adjacent properties while over 3000 voted against the proposal with its 80-foot heights.

I hope that we can count on your support in voting against any language that includes a maximum height of greater than 65 feet.

Thank you very much for listening.  Please feel free to contact me should you wish to discuss this further.  I look forward to seeing you at Monday’s meeting.

David Lapovsky

President

Preserve Longboat Inc.

 

Keep Longboat’s casual elegance

To: Commissioner Randy Clair

One of the loveliest things about Longboat has always been its casual elegance, easy lifestyle, and the care demonstrated by our local managing officials to keep it that way.

One only has to look at what has happened in Sarasota and on the East Coast of Florida where too tall buildings and loose local regulations have favored developers to the detriment of the people who live there.

As you know there have been a number of referendums in recent years regarding Longboat’s density regulations, and voters like ourselves and our friends have turned down by a large majority any proposals that would seriously change the character of beautiful Longboat Key.

I understand that the May 1 meeting at Town Hall will deal with the changing of height regulations for multi-family buildings on Longboat.

I believe the current maximum height regulation is 55 feet.

While I, and many of my friends, think 55 feet is high enough, we do understand that after many years that is now under review. I believe that the P&Z has proposed that the new regulation be set at 65 feet, and we think that 65 feet is reasonable. We have heard, however, that before the 65-foot proposal is confirmed, one or more Commissioners is going to propose to change that to 80 feet. In our opinion an 80-foot maximum height allowance would be a disaster for Longboat. One only has to look at the last vote taken regarding a density increase where 87 percent of the voters were against the increase to see how most Longboat owners feel regarding that.

I hope you will vote for a maximum height increase of no more than 65 feet. Thank you.

Roy Nevans

Longboat Key

 

Supporting the Unicorp proposal

To: Town Commission

As a long time resident of the Aquarius, 30 plus years, and a long time lover of Longboat Key, I want to add my support to the proposed Unicorp proposal on the site of the previous colony resort. Although I opposed the original proposal, I think the accommodations to comply with the spirit of Longboat Key development deserves our support. 80 foot high buildings would be acceptable. I agree that the increase of 15 ft. above the previous PUD limit of 65 feet would be agreeable.

I also agree that Unicorp be allowed to use 165 units from the town’s pool of available tourist units. Unicorp’s revised plan has 268 units versus the grandfathered number of 237 tourist units.  This small increase should be easily absorbed.

These compromises, I hope, will be comfortably accommodated. Additionally Unicorp has agreed to substantially improved setbacks from the gulf and from the sides of the property.

All tolled, their proposal is reasonable, and will not detract from the beauty and spirit of the Longboat Key community. We need to finally see a lovely addition to the community instead of the seven year dilapidated eyesore we’ve experienced. Thank you for your consideration.

Helene Spielman Torker

Longboat Key

 

Zoning code change

To: Mayor Terry Gans

I think the 65 feet above flood plane is appropriate for Longboat Key, anything higher is not.

Tom Suttmiller

Longboat Key

 

Thrilled to have Colony amenities 

To: Town Commission

My husband and I are owners of two properties at the Aquarius Club, which is adjacent to the deteriorated Colony property.  Unfortunately we will not be in town for the May 1st meeting to discuss the approval of the variance to the height restriction.

In a perfect world, we would hope to rebuild the Colony as it existed, with two story buildings that didn’t impede on our gulf views in any way.  Realistically, we know that is not going to happen.

I believe that our Board of Director’s and Mr. Whittall negotiated a plan that is in the best interest of our building and owners.  We support the plan as being presented to the Commissioners and are hopeful that you approve it so re-development can commence.

After seven years of this nightmare, it is time to move forward.  What we have read in the papers, It seems all parties are finally in agreement and the litigation is settled.

If Mr. Whittall is able to build a five star resort within the next two to three years, we would be thrilled to be able to take advantage of these amenities.

Maryanne and Brian Wade

Longboat Key

 

Enhancing Longboat Key

To: Keep Longboat Special

I think that if a significant portion of the gas station property is used for a traffic circle, the placement of a sizable structure on the remaining land may be cramped and lack sufficient setback from the traffic circle, with no parking.

An alternative configuration might have a pedestrian median at the GMD intersection for safety, traffic quieting via speed reduction and leave the tiny gas station parcel for the exclusive use as a gateway landmark with parking and an attractive setting.

The configuration being advanced may result in the Whitney cottage placement looking like a mattress balanced on a bottle of wine, so to speak.

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

 

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