Attorneys Michael Furen and Robert Lincoln presented a long list of problems with the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s $400 million Islandside renovation and expansion project during their presentation at the Planning and Zoning Board’s Thursday, Nov. 5 public hearing at Temple Beth Israel.
The attorneys, representing the Islandside Property Owners Coalition, said the project does not meet the requirements of the town’s code, violates the gulf-planned development that the project would reside in and creates an adverse relationship to the existing Islandside neighborhood.
More than 200 Longboat Key residents, business owners and attorneys filled the temple for the third day of hearings about the club’s project. The hearing will continue for a fourth day 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 6.
The planning board is charged with making a recommendation to the Town Commission about a $400 million proposal that includes a new Rees Jones-designed golf course; a new clubhouse; a new 196 room five-star hotel with an additional 34 units to be used either for tourism or residences; a new meeting center; two villa townhomes with a total of 10 units; two condominium buildings with 66 units each; a new Wellness Center with enhanced spa and fitness facilities; and other recreational amenities for club members and guests.
Furen began the hearing by explaining the project was not compliant with the town’s current codes and regulations.
“This hearing and the review of the application before it are not about the quality of the applicants, the quality of the consultants, the quality of the proposal, the economic needs of the community or whether the development could be a potential economic stimulus to the Key,” Furen said. “What this hearing is about is whether the town will preserve the integrity of a completely built out planned unit development that was approved 30 years ago.”
Furen said the hearing is “really about the hundreds of people who made significant life-changing, lifestyle decisions and spent millions of dollars to purchase homes in the Islandside community, which relied on the integrity of the planned unit development.”
Furen displayed various outline development plans and amendments approved over the years for Islandside, which state the Islandside golf course and clubhouse sites (where the club wants to build residential units and a meeting center) are not listed as development sites.
Furen also said 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.
Furen also maintains there is protection in place for the Islandside recreational facilities, “which require the club to be a private membership club that shall not be operated primarily as a commercial enterprise open to the public.”
Numerous outline development plans on file at Town Hall for Islandside, Furen said, show the gulf-planned development “as primarily residential in character with limited commercial development.”
Although Furen admitted he represented a client years ago that received permission to rezone a portion of the Islandside gulf-planned development from commercial use to residential, he explained his client “was not asking to rezone an existing development site that was dedicated as recreational space.”
Furen also displayed a Web site from Blackpoint Partners, which listed The Longboat Key Club and Resort as a client that received help with refinancing. It also “created a master plan for 1,600 new units for the club,” which Furen said gave the club an option to ask to build more units at Islandside and Bay Isles at Harbourside in the future.
Key Club attorney John Patterson, however, objected to Furen using the Web site, explaining a former Loeb employee that is the chief executive officer of Blackpoint Partners submitted a sworn statement indicating the information on the Web site “was totally false.”
“This is a blatant attempt to create some kind of fear based on false Web site information,” said Patterson, who explained his client does not have a 1,600 development plan in the works.
Furen said the point of bringing up the Web site was to point out “there is significant unused density in the gulf-planned development that could be used for future development.”
In his closing remarks, Furen said it’s the planning board’s responsibility to preserve the integrity of the Islandside development that’s currently in place.
Other witnesses and third-party presenters who spoke to the planning board in opposition and in favor of the project are listed below.
Marty Black, consultant
Marty Black, an Islandside Property Owners Coalition consultant and the town’s former planning and zoning official, was the defense’s first and only witness.
Black, also the former city manager of Venice, explained the town’s outline development plan preserves the Islandside open space and recreational amenities in place.
Black also said the town has indicated there is a build-out capacity on the island that states there are only 104 total units available left for development on the island.
“The applicant has understated the intensity of this project,” said Black, who also questioned whether the project’s meeting center could be labeled as an accessory use because it’s being placed on a separate parcel of land.
Black said there are “a series of inconsistencies with the project” relating to the town’s Comprehensive Plan and the density and gross land area calculations the club used for the proposal.
Black believes residential units only can be approved on the Islandside recreational properties by rezoning the property first.
Furen’s co-counsel, attorney Robert Lincoln, told the Planning and Zoning Board “it’s clear the various provision of the land development code has been designed to prevent exactly what this applicant is proposing, which is to convert a designated tract to commercial uses.”
“We believe the only way the applicant could attain project approval would be to remove the lands from the gulf-planned development and rezone those portions of the property,” Lincoln said.
Robert Lincoln, attorney, Icard Merrill
Islandside Property Owners Coalition co-counsel Robert Lincoln said the town’s codes and Comprehensive Plan prohibit commercial uses and new tourism uses in the gulf-planned development.
“It’s clear the intent is to take a private club for the benefit of Islandside residents and throw it out the window,” Lincoln said. “The proposed hotel, spa, restaurant, meeting rooms, offices and clubhouse are prohibited because they are commercial uses.”
Lincoln said the club couldn’t count the golf course when it factors in its available density because town code permits an applicant from using land it is attempting to modify in its plan.
“This is a situation where open spaces are being removed, which violates the town code because the gulf-planned development requires a provision for open space and facilities,” said Lincoln, who also said the project has not addressed parking or pedestrian traffic concerns.
Lincoln said nothing in the code identifies commercial recreation, commercial restaurants, commercial offices, or commercial hotels as permitted uses in the gulf-planned development.
“The Key Club wants to use density rights that Arvida sold to other properties in deeds transferred to other condominiums on site,” said Lincoln, who contends the club only can ask for about 175 units left in the gulf-planned development that were never issued to any other development.
For instance, Lincoln contends that when condominium projects within the development were built and didn’t use all the units available to them, the extra density “was thrown away.”
Planning board member George Symanski said he “strongly disagreed” with Lincoln’s stance on the density available within Islandside.
In short, Lincoln said the application as proposed violates the town’s governing resolution, the obligation to maintain the golf course and tennis facilities, the prohibitions on transferring density and the assured provision of existing club facilities staying put on site.
Michael Seery, president, The Sanctuary
The president of The Sanctuary Association said he and his residents recognize the club as a valuable part of the community and applauds its modernization.
“Where we differ, however, is the need for real estate development to accomplish a five-star status hotel,” said Seery, who claimed the club has had past credibility problems with residents and club members that won’t allow residents to rely on faith alone when considering this project.
“Not everything has to be crammed into Islandside,” Seery said. “If you want to get into the real estate development business, build these units elsewhere, where they don’t violate governing documents.”
Bob White, president, Islandside Property Owners Coalition
Bob White, president of the Islandside Property Owners Coalition, said the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s Islandside project “has a number of pros and cons.”
“Club officials say this project will prevent the decline of the club and reverse the decline of the Key,” White said. “But the net benefits may not be as great as we are led to believe when the impact of the project is considered.”
White said “hundreds of property owners invested millions of dollars on the assurance the town would uphold the integrity of the zoning code and planned unit development.”
“Allowing blatant excessive departures would undermine the town’s zoning code and future applicants would demand equal treatment,” said White, who explained the coalition supports the renovation of the existing golf course, golf clubhouse, existing spa and the expansion of club facilities as long as they fall within the town’s existing zoning codes and regulations.
Bob Goodman, president, The Longboat Key Association (Longboat Club Road association)
Bob Goodman, president of The Longboat Key Association, which refused to sign the club’s application and appealed the Islandside project earlier this year, said his board has not made a position on whether to support the project.
Explaining there has not been “full truth or trust” relayed to the association regarding the project over the last 18 months, Goodman wanted to make it clear the road should come first in any project approved by the town.
“The planning board’s approval should be made conditional on work being performed to Longboat Club Road first so the road can handle what’s proposed,” Goodman said.
Rich Doyle, a traffic engineer hired by the road association, had a list of suggestions for what needed to be done to a road that he perceives will see a 177% increase in traffic over what the road currently handles now.
But during a cross-examination of Doyle by Key Club attorney John Patterson, Doyle admitted the 177% traffic increase, and changes he proposed to the road factor in those traffic increases only when the club is handling special events. While Doyle said he performed a traffic analysis for normal traffic one the project is built, he did not present the data involved with that analysis.
Rick Crawford, president, Positive Change for LBK
While introducing Positive Change for LBK President Rick Crawford, Sarasota attorney Mark Barnebey said the club’s list of departures for its Islandside renovation and expansion project “aren’t relevant.”
“You are given the flexibility to look at the big picture and approve what you feel is appropriate for the Islandside gulf-planned development,” Barnebey said.
When Crawford took to the stand, he told the planning board he wanted to make it clear that the Islandside Property Owners Coalition does not represent many residents that live behind the Islandside gates.
“I believe the project will ensure the long-term future of the club and the Key,” Crawford said. “We see the club’s redevelopment plan as vital to the economic future of Longboat Key.”
Crawford said the club reduced its plan by 20% and is asking for buildings that are smaller in size than L’Ambiance, which he called “IPOC’s headquarters.”
“And anyone that is calling 17,000 square feet of meeting space a convention center is using that phrase as a dishonest scare tactic,” Crawford said.
The Sands Point resident said the project would create no noticeable increase in traffic.
“Those opposed to everything want to ignore this community’s collective call for additional tourism units and a viable business community on the island,” Crawford said. “Change is going to happen one way or another. Will fear or stagnation bring about negative change or will we come together in the sprit of collective optimism to bring about positive change?”
For more information, visit www.yourobserver.com Friday, Nov. 6, for live updates regarding the Islandside hearing.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].