Longboat staff recommends approval of St. Regis plan slated to replace closed Colony

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Chuck Whittall, who hopes to redevelop the former 17.6-acre Colony site into a 166 room St. Regis Hotel and 78 luxury condominiums, expressed cautious optimism as his final site plan heads to the Planning and Zoning Board Tuesday for review.

Last month, Whittall shaved 24 units off the residential side of the proposal as he abandoned a code change and said that he heard that residents wanted less density on the site and he wants the plan to move forward.

Now, the concern expressed by some residents and staff is the size of the proposed ballroom and the potential traffic and enforcement issues if guest levels go beyond a self-imposed limit of 425 attendees at any one time in the ballroom.

Staff wrote in its report that was issued to the Planning and Zoning Board:

“Staff has concerns about the Town’s ability to effectively enforce the Applicant’s self-imposed limitation of 425 “external guests”. While there are likely ways to mitigate a special event with 425 external guests, such as shuttling guests from an off-site location, off-site parking, and other means, there are practical challenges with enforcing such a limitation.”

The report goes on to say it does not have an issue with the size or amount of square footage of the accessory uses or the ballroom or meeting space, it simply has issues with the possible impact on traffic and the ability to regulate the management plan to restrict the number of guests to 425.

Whittall said, “Zota has meeting space for 300; we have meeting space for 425 and our property is more than 5 times as large. They are making a 10k ballroom seem like the end of world — it is smaller than a CVS.”

Many of the other departures were thoroughly analyzed by staff such as building height, setbacks, floor area ratios, open space, site drainage and staff found all of these factors met the criteria for approval. In fact, the staff report was almost entirely favorable to the project.

Staff in its report to the Planning and Zoning Board analyzed the project relative to town regulations and recommends approval of 8 of the 9 requested departures from Town Code.

Departures are allowed and expected in a planned unit development process (PUD), which is the method applicant Unicorp, of which Whittall is president, is applying under.

Whittall is allowed to build 103 residential or tourism units on the site by right. Instead, he seeks to use the PUD process, which allows mixed use and allows the request of additional tourism units from the pool of Tourism units the Town Commission controls.

The Town has 165 units left in the Tourism pool and Unicorp wants to join them with the allowed residential units. But Unicorp must sacrifice under Town Code 25% of the allowed residential units if it uses the PUD process and seeks the tourism units. That is exactly what Whittall plans to do.

Intrinsic to the approval of the project is the allocation by the Town Commission of the Tourism units. Without the units the project cannot move forward.

The Town Planning and Zoning staff in its detailed analysis recommends that the Tourism units be allocated and made several key points including that only one applicant — Zota— had requested the units and that the use of them by Unicorp conforms with the intent of the Torism pool and policy.

Staff wrote in its recommendation for approval of allocating the 165 units, “Staff finds no compelling reason to deny the request or recommend an allocation of less than the requested amount, in order to maintain additional units for use elsewhere in the Town.”


Opinions abound…

Letters and opinions have filled Town Hall and the Longboat Key News in-box with most cutting one of two ways.

Those opposed generally say they support the plan, but the ballroom is oversized and if all of the meeting and ballroom space is combined and the hotel is filled to capacity that more than 1,000 individuals could be on the site at any one time. They want to see the ballroom and meeting space reduced to an undefined number.

Those in support accuse the opposition of gaming the numbers creating perfect storms of assumptions that would never occur. They also cite the fact that the property has lay dormant and rat infested for almost a decade and they wish to not squander the opportunity for a hotel and redevelopment of the site.

Some have pointed out that the former Colony failed and that requiring the new developer to keep scaling back will jeopardize the chance for success of the new proposal.


Totality of the project:

The St. Regis Hotel and Residences proposal consists of following:

• 78 condominiums, located in a series of, 5-story structures, on top of a covered parking deck

• 166 hotel rooms, in a 5-story structure, on top of covered parking deck

• Three restaurants

• Two bars

• A spa and fitness center

• 17,654 square feet of meeting space (inclusive of a ballroom and meeting/board rooms)

• Four swimming pools

• 457 off-street parking spaces are primarily provided in a covered parking deck below the buildings.

The layout of the project consists of three (3), five (5)-story towers with 78 residential units on the south side of the property, in addition to a five (5)-story, 166-room hotel with accessory commercial and meeting space uses on the north side of the property. The residential and hotel towers sit on top of a one-story podium, containing enclosed parking and entry features. Recreational facilities are located on the western portion of the site, consisting of four swimming pools and an enhanced dune system along the beach. The project includes an event lawn, also on the western side of the site.


Planning and Zoning Board’s role

The Planning and Zoning Board cannot allocate or approve anything at its 9 a.m. hearing, which will commence at Town Hall on Tuesday, Feb 20; the board is simply an advisory board to the Town Commission in this process.

Whittall hopes the Town Planning and Zoning Board recommends approval and that there is enough time in the day on Tuesday for the entire plan to be heard, public comment made and a vote rendered. If so, the entire site plan is scheduled to be heard by the Town Commission in March for a first and second reading.

After that, Whittall can continue his negotiations with Andy Adams — the primary holdout in ownership consolidation — and he intends to break ground by 2019.

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Longboat Key News

3 Responses for “Longboat staff recommends approval of St. Regis plan slated to replace closed Colony”

  1. ghostrider says:

    “If this is the case, then theoretically there are 244 hotel rooms available and not 166…”

    I believe this math was given to you in one of my earlier nonsensical posts.

    When you are sitting at a poker table and you don’t know who the sucker is….

  2. Suny Gravy says:

    Looking at the site plan, there is a large grass area which could be used for a tent similar to what the Longboat Key Club does several times a year for events thereby increasing event occupancy in addition to the proposed large ballroom and event space.

  3. Barry S. says:

    Question: will the 78 condo units be allowed to be run as a “condo-hotel” meaning unit owners can opt to put their condo units in the pool of available rooms run by the hotel? This is a fairly common structure for high end properties like The St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton to allow unit owners to rent out their furnished units as part of the hotel room inventory. If this is the case, then theoretically there are 244 hotel rooms available and not 166, adding to the daily traffic demands of the project. If anyone knows, I’d be curious because it’s a back door way of getting more hotel room inventory at the site.

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