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Town says ‘No’ to sales office at Colony site with 4-3 vote

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

The Longboat Key Town Commission voted 4-3 against allowing a temporary sales office to market future St. Regis condominiums at the former Colony Beach & Tennis Resort site.

The denial came as a surprise for Unicorp President Chuck Whittall, who had worked with staff in modifying his request so that if allowed, it would only apply to large-scale properties and developments that have been issued an approved development order by the town.

Currently, the town code only allows a sales office if a building permit has been issued. That caveat prevents Whittall and the sales team at Michael Saunders & Company from working on the site or installing a temporary structure to show off the beach view and demonstrate some of the building finishes.

Although Unicorp has been granted approval to build 166 St. Regis Hotel suites and 78 residences along with amenities, one of the specific conditions made in the approval was that Whittall consolidate ownership before a building permit will be issued.

Under normal circumstances, a condominium association can designate a developer such as Whittall, and a building permit can be issued. Any property disputes would be considered civil litigation matters and internal disputes, but in this case the town put this specific condition on the approval.

The reason Whittall was surprised at the vote denying the sales office is that in November when the commissioners considered the request, they indicated that they would be inclined to support it if it did not apply to all tourism-zoned properties and there was a way to limit its application to very specific instances and large-scale developments. That task was accomplished, but the slim majority prevailed in voting “No”.

“The original code was in place in 1970 and it is not outdated. You don’t begin marketing until the building permit is granted. It might be one to two years before the developer can even get ownership consolidation,” said Commissioner Jack Daly.

Commissioner Irwin Pastor argued against the 1970s code’s relevancy.

“I have to say, the 1970s conditions are entirely different than conditions are now. We approved a development application that the voters wanted. I know the voters I talked to say they want the redevelopment of the site done sooner than later. I think it’s important to update our land codes. It is not in the best interest of the town to kick this ball down the field,” said Pastor.

Whittall addressed the Commission and said he had invested $30 million to help fix the situation and another $1 million demolishing the Colony so the town didn’t have to.

“If you deny this, I will not be able to start redeveloping the former Colony site into something new until much later next year. If you delay this, and your code is unlike hundreds of other cities in the state of Florida, it will delay us by one year,” said Whittall.

Commissioner Ken Schneier argued in support of approval in saying that the commission had asked staff to do exactly what they had asked them to do.

When the vote came, Commissioners Jim Brown, Irwin Pastor and Ken Schneier voted “Yes,” and Commissioners Jack Daly, Vice Mayor Ed Zunz, Mayor George Spoll and Randy Clair voted “No.”

Whittall said he will revise his request and again bring an ordinance for a temporary sales office through the Planning and Zoning Board.

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Longboat Key News

6 Responses for “Town says ‘No’ to sales office at Colony site with 4-3 vote”

  1. Sunny Gravy says:

    Dean, are you one of those people who has in the past tried to sell the Brooklyn Bridge?

  2. MG Pren says:

    This whole process has been a completed embarrassment to the Town of LBK. It’s as if the Town has
    a winning lottery ticket, but refuses to claim the prize. How many more hoops will the Commissioners make UniCorp jump through before they cut their losses and run?

  3. Steve Keller says:

    Feltham question and related Seidholz comment are spot on. Now that we have finally given birth following the protracted/tortured evolution of this project Commission s/b be supporting Unicorp’s timely completion not throwing up meaningless bureaucratic hurdles which will slow down that process. Noting that our Leadership has stepped in it again is a charitable analogy.

  4. Voting no on this request is nonsense. We have nothing to gain by denying him a sales office and will only lose out by delaying the whole process. Unicorp needs pre-sales to go forward. It is clearly in the town‘s best interest to help this project go forward as soon as possible.

  5. Dean Feltham says:

    Question for the Commissioners who voted no.

    How does the Unicorp request detrimentally impact anyone’s use and enjoyment of their property on LBK?

  6. Donn Seidholz says:

    No wonder Jim Brown is leaving…..
    We finally have a chance to fix an ongoing eyesore and bring significant tax revenue to the island to help us upgrade infrastructure and our illustrious leadership steps in it again. To the four dissenting votes, you should be ashamed of yourselves.

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