Judge sets key dates in Colony case

Editor & Publisher

The Colony bustled for five decades with tourists, tennis players and those simply content to slip feet and harried souls into the soothing stretch of prime Gulffront beach.

Today, all of this activity — the bustling of a subtropical paradise — has been traded for the glacial pace of courtroom battles over ownership and redevelopment rights.

This Thursday, Sarasota Circuit Judge Hunter Carroll nudged the metaphorical leaden beach ball forward a few feet in setting critical court dates for trials that could mark the two final acts needed for redevelopment of the 17.2-acre beachfront property.

On August 1 and 2 of this year, Judge Carroll will hold a trial to allow arguments leading to a decision on what is the most prudent and lawful way to terminate the Colony condominium association of unit owners.


Developing plans

Unicorp President Chuck Whittall seeks to redevelop the property into a St. Regis Hotel and Condominiums. He has a contract with the majority of unit owners. Whittall also owns 2.3 acres of the property outright — the former Colony restaurant, spa, tennis courts land — and he has been approved by the Town of Longboat Key to build the St. Regis plan.

The problem for Whittall is Andy Adams holds a blocking interest in that he owns about 74 units out of the original 240. Adams has voted against and challenged Whittall, the Town and opposed the majority of owners who have sided with Whittall. Because of his sheer percentage of ownership, no termination of the Condominium can occur without Adams agreeing — unless a judge compels the matter. And that is where this is heading.

The trial in August will allow Whittall and Adams and the Association all to argue how to best accomplish the act of termination of the condo. Part of the dilemma expressed by Judge Carroll is the fact that there are outstanding claims against the Association and he said that while he believes the end-game is termination, he is reluctant to “simply turn the spigot off” when it comes to the ability to assess unit owners.

Whittall has argued that he is assuming all liabilities and claims against the Association. Meanwhile,  Adams is in opposition.

The Judge last week said that in August the method and course of termination will be argued and decided.

Judge Carroll said that the next act after the termination method decision — which is a major one — is when the actual termination will occur. That is the second trial scheduled and slated for April 6 through April 10, 2020. That is when the sides will argue and the judge will decide how the assets of the unit owners should be dealt with. The termination method will be implemented aand will coincide with that final trial.

If all goes as as has been argued already, Adams will seek a public auction. Whittall will argue that the agreed-upon redevelopment plan the owners have a contract with him on is the most reasonable method.

Adams’ argument on its face sounds simple enough, but the fact that Whittall owns numerous parcels  — donut holes — throughout the entire property is a factor. Another is the fact that Unicorp has a contract with most every unit owner other than Adams and it has a specific performance clause. So if it goes to public auction and gets bid up, it simply inures to Whittall’s benefit and the property could end up divided yet again.

And of course, the appellate court is always available if the calculus justifies it as a strategy for any party.

As the rye grass pokes its head out of the 18-acre site on Longboat’s Gulf of Mexico Drive, the only movement toward redevelopment is the ebb and flow of pleadings and arguments in the courtroom. And the same words spoken as a humorous refrain by Longboaters a few years ago are now shadowed by resignation — “Do you think I will live long enough to see the Colony property ever get redeveloped?”

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3 Responses for “Judge sets key dates in Colony case”

  1. Joseph W. Haley III says:

    However it ends up, just more shoreline lost to commerce. As a native, I say make it a PARK !!!

  2. Sunny Gravy says:

    If there is an auction buyers will come out of the woodwork to pay all cash and Whittall’s donut holes will fall by the wayside the same way that Adams lost his 5% interest in what was then tennis courts.

  3. David Siegal says:

    I recall when we were in bankruptcy court and Chuck Whittall wanted to make a deal with Andy Adams during a courtroom break and it came back to us that Adams would not at that point because he was going to protect the unit owners. I think the parties should be asked to confirm this for the paper and I would wonder what changed and why or perhaps nothing changed …

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