The Longboat Key Town Commission is so fed up with both a lack of renovation activity and meaningful settlement negotiations from Colony Beach & Tennis Resort officials, it’s not ruling out pulling the plug on the resort’s grandfathered tourism units.
At its Monday, Oct. 1 regular meeting, the commission pulled a three-year extension deadline for re-opening the resort with the current 232 units off the table and replaced it with a one-year deadline that expires Dec. 31, 2013.
Commissioners are offering a rebuild extension to the owner of the property that can redevelop the entire 18 acres, not just the 15 acres currently in possession of the Association and its unit owners.
The language commissioners approved Monday night now states, “If final determination of control of the entire Colony site is not reached on or before Dec. 31, 2013, this extension shall terminate unless further extended by the Town Commission after a properly noticed and advertised public hearing.”
However, if a Tampa-based bankruptcy court judge decides that the future control of the resort lies with the Association or longtime Colony owner Dr. Murray “Murf” Klauber, through his partnership that controlled the units and hotel operation, the town will consider other extension options.
Following that final court ruling that decides who has control of the property or a future negotiated settlement between all the affected Colony parties, the town will grant a three-year extension and require the owner of the property to submit a complete development plan for the re-opening of the resort within three months of being labeled as the entity that controls the property. That plan, which must be signed off on by Town Manager Dave Bullock, must include:
• Schedules for all planning, financing, design and construction phases;
• A specific timeframe for the submittal of site plans and building permits;
• A financing plan;
• A construction plan.
If the Colony fails to meet any of the above requirements, a public hearing would be scheduled to discuss whether to continue with the three-year extension. Under this option, the Colony must also submit quarterly updates on progress of all planning elements, settlement negotiations and pending litigation. A one-year extension also is available for any approved proposal that includes only a rehabilitation of the existing buildings.
While the Colony waits to find out which entity is in charge, the town also plans to impose conditions on the property that make sure it’s secure and landscaped to prevent it from becoming any more of an eyesore than it already is.
The Association was prepared to accept the extension requirements, but attorney Don Hemke thought his client was obtaining a three-year extension to work out all of the ownership kinks and litigation that still exists.
“This is too short and too Draconian,” Hemke said. “We need more time.”
The comments infuriated commissioners, who explained the association has run out of time and commissioners have run out of patience.
“You guys have got to get it together and make a deal, and if you haven’t done it by 2013, maybe we do pull the plug (on the grandfathered units),” said Vice Mayor David Brenner. “We are putting all of you guys on notice. Get this thing solved.”
Klauber’s attorney, Charles Bartlett, urged commissioners not to grant the Association a three-year extension.
“I support an extension, but not a three-year period of time before the clock even starts ticking to allow litigation to fully run its course,” Bartlett said.
Bartlett also confirmed Commissioner Lynn Larson’s suspicions that all Colony parties have ceased settlement negotiations since commissioners have expressed a willingness to give them an extension.
“My phone hasn’t rung in quite some time,” Bartlett said.
The news led commissioners to cut back the extension deadline.
“I favor a much tighter timeframe,” said Commissioner Pat Zunz. “We already have a very blighted area on the north end. Can we afford two blighted areas on this island that can go on for years and years? Ask yourselves that question, because I’m not sure we are doing the right thing.”
Commissioners agreed that the year extension was done, in part, to try to convince the Association or whoever the future owner of the property is, that it expects the parties to resolve their differences and end litigation so redevelopment can begin. Doing so would shave years off a redevelopment timeline.
“These people are the ones in control, not the courts,” Larson said. “They started this litigation and they better stop it.”