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Fate of revamped Colony plan in hands of Town Commission

The new plan.

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

A scaled-back Colony redevelopment plan is in the hands of Town Hall on Longboat Key and this time, the commission, not voters, will have the final say.

Unicorp President Chuck Whittall submitted an application to redevelop the 17.6-acre site into a resort proposing 166hotel rooms along with 102 residential condominiums.

The proposed hotel will be flagged as a St. Regis and the associated amenities including two restaurants, a spa, a ballroom, meeting rooms, as well as swimming pools and a saltwater lagoon will be available to both hotel guests and condominium owners.

Whittall submitted this plan after more than 80 percent of Longboat Key voters said no last March when asked in a referendum to allow 180 residential units to be added to the site. The plan that was voted down requested a total of 437 units and 110-foot building heights in the residential towers.

Whittall says he heard clearly and understands how important it is to keep the building height within the 65-foot limit of the existing zoning allowed on the property.

The submitted application specifically requests the following:

• 17.6-acre site

• 102 residential condominiums

• 166 room St. Regis Hotel

• Maximum height of five stories and 65 feet

• 15,700 square foot spa

• Two restaurants

• A lounge and a lounge bar

• 10,000 square foot ballroom

• 6,700 square feet of meeting rooms

• 2,750 square feet of board rooms

• Meandering saltwater lagoon

 

The residential condominium units will have private swimming pools, parking and amenities separate from the hotel facilities but will be able to utilize the services of the hotel staff on demand.

As for situating the parking, Whittall proposes that the hotel as well as the condominiums will be constructed “on top of a single podium which will enclose the parking below.”

The application states that the podium will be one-story in height and heavily landscaped and it is stated that it will be “barely visible” from Gulf of Mexico Drive and adjacent properties.

Part of the concern some commissioners expressed about redevelopment at the Colony and on Gulf of Mexico Drive in general, is the height and impact when seen from Gulf of Mexico Drive, Whittall has proposed a setback between 176 and 228 feet from the thoroughfare. The application states that only the mid-rise structures will be visible from Gulf of Mexico Drive and neighboring properties.

 

How to get there…

Over the past several months, Unicorp followed the Town of Longboat Key as the commission sought to address non-conforming units as well as develop a Planned Unit Development (PUD) process. This process was the one Unicorp intended to use in its application for the redevelopment for the Colony. But after the town commission halted its efforts on May 1, 2017, Unicorp decided to move forward using the town’s existing regulations and zoning code amendments.

To accomplish its redevelopment plan, Unicorp is proposing two separate regulatory paths and hopes the commission will embrace one.

In short, path one uses 165 tourism units from the tourism pool the town created following a public vote several years ago and adds them to 102 residential units and one tourism unit that are allowed under existing zoning at the property today. The Town Commission has the authority to allocate these units at its discretion to existing tourism properties. Under this scenario, Unicorp would not use any of the grandfathered Colony units.

The second option for approval that Unicorp proposes is to request a code change to allow the 237 existing grandfathered Colony units (that is the size of the historical Colony and the town has grandfathered them). The code change would allow Unicorp to use the 237 grandfathered tourism units as either residential or tourism and then Unicorp would ask for only 31 tourism units from the existing pool that the commission controls. In either scenario, the same development will be built with the distinction being that the first option would use up all of the tourism pool, and Whittall says that may be desired by the town.

Town Planning and Zoning Director Alaina Ray told Longboat Key News that the application will take several weeks for staff to review. Ray said there will likely be back and forth suggestions and changes made to the plan to bring it in conformance with code. She added that she will in the end, provide a recommendation of ‘approve,’ ‘not approve,’ or ‘approve with conditions’ to the Planning and Zoning Board, which will be the first town board to consider the proposal.

Whittall hopes to have the plan considered by the Planning and Zoning Board at its Oct. 17 meeting and next by the Town Commission at its Nov. 6 regular meeting.

 

Backstory

The Colony Beach and Tennis Resort was officially created by Murf Klauber in 1972 and operated continuously for 38 years before closing due to a legal battle between Klauber and the unit owners. Since then, it stands shuttered and dilapidated and has been deemed a public nuisance by the town and veered close to demolition.

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Longboat Key News

2 Responses for “Fate of revamped Colony plan in hands of Town Commission”

  1. r.simson says:

    After visiting and staying in Longboat Key for 25 years plus I am at a loss to understand why the unit owners cannot think outside the box and realise that eventually this major asset is worth a very great deal of money-much more than any existing developer has offered.

    Land will only increase in value!!!!!

    Its been amess for along time-BIDE YOUR TIME!!!!

  2. Sunny Gravy says:

    The fate of the Colony is not in the hands of the Town Commission, but rather in the hands of 10% or more of the condo owners of the now defunct Colony who will decide whether or not the Colony will be redeveloped by this Whitthall guy who thinks the unit owners will now fall down and play dead for less than 45 Million which will then become a battle as to who gets what.

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