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Town, Unicorp give life to St. Regis plan

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

Ask any obstetric nurse and you will be told that giving birth is messy and painful. That is no less true than giving birth to a New Colony Beach & Tennis Resort now named the St. Regis Longboat Key.

And without an epidural and with numerous suitors claiming ownership rights to the offspring, Unicorp President Chuck Whittall, his attorneys and the members of the Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board came together this past week and consummated the first signs of new life at the decrepit 17.6-acre site.

The approval came with little resistance at the end of the second day of the meeting primarily because the plan before the Planning and Zoning Board was modified to limit the number of attendees at the prescribed Ballroom to 425 whether the guests show up from off the site or emanate from the hotel.

Planning and Zoning board member Ken Schneier made the final motion that was approved to reduce the size of the ballroom to 7,650 ft square feet and the developer agreed to the reduction and the project received an affirmative vote.

As we have written on these editorial pages over and over again, the smallest project the developer can live with is what will best serve Longboat Key. In this case, it seems we have arrived at long last to a development plan that will place Longboat Key’s stature as a destination in the highest echelon in the world of resorts.

It reminds me of the satirical rock band movie “This Is Spinal Tap” where the guitarist turns his amplifier up to 11 even though 11 doesn’t really exist. He merely created the dial and said “11 has to be louder than 10.”

I don’t know when, but someday we will hear of 6 and then 7 and then 9 and 10-star hotels. Numbers and words lose meaning in our world. Number 1 Realtors are always selling Mega Ultra Luxury Premier listings.

But for now, we will receive the nation’s very finest in hoteliers with the St. Regis Corporation along with the eager enthusiasm of developer Chuck Whittall who could be seen and heard wrangling, wrestling and negotiating with about every resident and Community member to support his plan.

Of course it now goes to the Town Commission and we all hope as a community that the board can take this tiny infant of approval and help it walk its way out of Town Hall without tumbling down the cement steps.

We all hope the Commission with it’s eagerness to put its own mark on the plan and flex its leadership machismo, leaves excellent alone and does not try to improve on the proposal.  In fact, I hope the Commission recognizes the Site Plan had a rigorous staff and Planning and Zoning Board and community vetting that pushed Whittall far back from his original overwrought plan and showed him the harsh reality that Longboat Key is all about maintaining its ambiance along with its low-key yet exquisite and pristine character.

I want to thank all of the community members who seemed to be so negative and came out against so many aspects of the plan but in the end helped shape a better project. This plan can be something beautiful and special and we should be proud and excited.

I look forward to hearing live music at the Colony site again and walking the beach with a drink in hand.

I’m sure the Planning and Zoning Board members and staff and the Commission will enjoy visiting and walking out on Murf Klauber’s old groin which will forever penetrate the Gulf Waters as a rocky reminder of both his legacy and all of the great memories he bestowed upon our community.

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