The man, who constantly hears that his company is requesting a $400 million Islandside renovation-and-expansion project only so it can sell the property and walk away, lives right in the thick of the controversy.
Longboat Key Club and Resort General Manager Michael Welly is a Longboat Key resident himself.
Welly rides his bicycle every Sunday down to the north end of Longboat Key and back. He stops on his way back from his bike rides to dine either at the Blue Dolphin Café or Harry’s Continental Kitchens. He also shops at the Longboat Key Publix and various other Key stores.
That’s why Welly takes offense to all of the rumors circling about him and his company.
“Longboat Key is declining and is bracing for change,” Welly said. “I see it on my bike rides, and I think every full-time Longboat Key resident senses it whether they want to believe it or not.”
Welly has been the club’s manager for six years. He spent two years surveying the property before coming up with a plan for Islandside’s revitalization that he thinks is crucial to the continued success of the club and the island as a whole.
“This is a special community,” Welly said. “That’s why this project is so important. It will determine the next 20 years of the demographics of this island.”
For the past four years, Welly has looked at models, surveyed architectural designs and made trips to New York City to present Loeb Partners Realty with updates on a project that he proposed to the company’s executives.
“When I look at this project and the buildings, I see in my mind how it works and how the people will walk to and from the facilities,” Welly said. “I see the pleasure they will derive from the project and the benefits the surrounding community will receive from it.”
Welly said his club also has a role and responsibility as a corporate citizen to Longboat Key.
“In my role as a corporate citizen, I am a constant-improvement guy,” Welly said. “When I apply that concept to the town, I think it’s an important thing for people to understand that change must continue moving forward for the next generation of Longboaters. Let’s manage the change to be better, not worse.”
Welly said that, in the past, Longboat Key has been known as a wonderful place that was being developed.
“But times change, and we must realize this Key is mostly built out,” Welly said. “We have a development policy on this island, and what we need now is a proactive re-development policy.”
Welly believes the town’s government needs to take a more proactive approach to create such a policy.
“All the development codes have to be looked at and revised to reflect that people will now be coming to Town Hall, like we are, to fix, re-build and tear down,” Welly said.
Welly scoffs at the naysayers who say he and his company will “take the money and run” and sell the property once the project is approved.
“The company supports us and blesses this project,” said Welly, who said Loeb executives frequently visit the resort property and say it is their favorite investment from a portfolio that consists of hundreds of properties.
After a month-and-a-half of hearings on the Planning and Zoning Board level, Welly will present his project to the Town Commission Jan. 8.
“It’s time to present this project to those that have the ultimate decision,” Welly said.
Occupation: general manager of the Longboat Key Club and Resort
Hometown: Born in Youngstown, Ohio (Grew up in Willowick, Ohio)
Hobbies: Sailing, skiing, biking, climbing and hiking
Passion: Hiking and biking
Interesting fact: Welly rides the length of the Key every Sunday morning on his bicycle.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].