Longboat Key Club and Resort attorney John Patterson expressed frustration and disappointment when the commission debated last week whether it should review the club’s renovation-and-expansion project before or after amending the town’s Comprehensive Plan.
All applicants submitting an application must adhere to the Comprehensive Plan, which acts as the town’s constitution for land-use regulations.
And all applications must conform to town land-use codes and zoning regulations or receive departures from those regulations.
Islandside Property Owners Coalition (IPOC) attorneys have stated that they do not believe the Islandside project can be approved by the town because they believe it’s not consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.
In short, the attorneys say the project does not meet the requirements of the town’s code, violates the Gulf-planned development in which the project would reside and creates an adverse relationship to the existing Islandside neighborhood.
IPOC attorney Michael Furen also says town codes state the club cannot legally transfer density from one tract to another in the Gulf-planned development for use in its proposed project.
But Patterson said some of the commissioners are missing the big picture by raising concerns about the town’s Comprehensive Plan.
Patterson has continually reminded commissioners during the four days of hearings that Planning, Zoning and Building Director Monica Simpson and town special counsel attorney Nancy Stroud believe the town has the authority to approve the project under the town’s Comprehensive Plan and land zoning regulations.
And so does Patterson.
“We were told more than two years ago by town staff that we could seek amendments to the town code so we wouldn’t have to seek any departures,” Patterson said. “But at the end of the day, we feel comfortable with the town’s Comprehensive Plan and feel the town can approve this project.”
Patterson said it was unanticipated that the commission would be concerned about having the ability to grant application approval under the Comprehensive Plan.
He also expressed concern that The Longboat Key News announced in its newspaper, before the meeting was held Friday, Jan. 8, that a commissioner was going to raise an issue with the plan.
“Should a commissioner have done that?” Patterson said. “No, perhaps not.”
Patterson said it’s unfortunate the commission expressed concern, especially because he believes the issue was raised because it received memos from IPOC attorneys regarding the Comprehensive Plan issues. But staff, Patterson said, did not present the commission with a counter memo to address the concerns before the first hearing was held.
“The bottom line is these issues have been vetted for over a year and they have been resolved by the applicant,” Patterson said. “The arguments by IPOC have not been accepted by staff or the planning board.”
The only new issue that has arisen since the project has been presented to the town is a section of the zoning code that says non-residential development may be permitted in a planned unit development up to 5%.
The club submitted its application, which states the project meets the 5% requirement, because the Inn on the Beach hotel and the Islandside golf course were grandfathered properties and did not need to be considered as part of the 5% rule calculations.
“If you take those two parcels out of the equation, you come up with a project that’s not in excess of the 5% requirement,” Patterson said.
But IPOC attorneys disputed the fact that those properties should be omitted from the calculation, and Patterson agreed Tuesday, Jan. 12 to ask for a departure of the 5% requirement.
Even though IPOC attorney Robert Lincoln believes you can’t ask for a departure for the 5% requirement, town special counsel attorney Nancy Stroud told town staff the club has the ability to do so.
Patterson said if his client’s application is approved, he is confident the project will be upheld in court if it’s appealed.
“If we weren’t confident, we would have pulled the application and worked with the town on seeking amendments to the Comprehensive Plan and the codes,” he said.
Town attorney alerted club
District 1 Commission candidates and Islandside Property Owners Coalition members have expressed concern that the town of Longboat Key and Town Attorney David Persson should have alerted The Longboat Key Club and Resort of potential Comprehensive Plan issues with its Islandside project before bringing its application forward.
Persson, however, said he told club officials more than two years ago that the club could seek amendments to the town’s Comprehensive Plan and codes.
Key Club Attorney John Patterson told The Longboat Observer that Persson did explain that to the club years ago.
“At the end of the day, we thought it would take two years and was a more daunting task than submitting our project under the current plan,” Patterson said. “If we weren’t confident, we would have pulled the application and worked with the town on seeking amendments to the Comprehensive Plan and the codes.”
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].