If the Longboat Key Town Commission doesn’t pass a zoning-code amendment that allows the Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort’s application to expand to be reviewed, the Hilton flag is in jeopardy of disappearing.
The resort could no longer be a Hilton.
Delray Beach-based Ocean Properties Ltd., owner of the resort, has been working with Hilton Hotels & Resorts officials to delay a Hilton-mandated renovation of the property until the town approves a plan to add 85 rooms to the 102-room resort.
Ocean Properties Vice President Andy Berger said his company previously had signed agreements with Hilton for a May 1 deadline to begin renovations. That deadline has been pushed to June 1.
“There are several upgrades we need to make to the property to stay current to Hilton standards,” Berger said. “(Hilton officials) saw we were working with the town and gave us more extensions.”
But Hilton officials are concerned that because of court rulings against the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s expansion plans the town has become unable to review the Hilton’s expansion application.
“Now that we have this delay and potentially can’t make even a June 1 shovel deadline, they (Hilton) could tell us to take the flag off because the property doesn’t meet their requirements any longer,” Berger said. “We don’t want to just put new carpet in and make renovations now for something we want to completely redo.”
The Town Commission took the first step to avoid that scenario at its Tuesday, Jan. 22, regular workshop. It moved a zoning-code amendment forward for first and second reading. The ordinance modifies the outline development process to allow a review of the Hilton application.
Meanwhile, the town is seeking to hire a planning consultant to perform a further review and modification of the town’s current codes and comprehensive plan.
“We recognize we are in the process of hiring a planner to help us plan and map out our future,” said Mayor Jim Brown. “But we also have to respond, and we can’t allow the town to be shutdown for a year or two while we do these other things.”
Commissioner Lynn Larson agreed.
“It’s important to remember the voters spoke on this already,” Larson said. “They went out and voiced support of the 250 tourism units, and we need to listen to that.”
The goal for the Hilton is to shut down the hotel May 1 and not re-open until the second quarter of 2014.
After negotiating for a year, Berger said, Hilton officials are getting frustrated. “If we get delayed too much, we would be without a franchise. I honestly don't know what we would do with the property at that point if that were to happen,” Berger said.