There are several similarities to the Inn on the Beach at the Longboat Key Club and Resort and the recently shuttered Colony Beach & Tennis Resort.
Both are well-known, respected resorts on Longboat Key that have a group of unit owners that have access to their units for four weeks, or approximately 30 days, a year.
And the majority of the Inn on the Beach unit owners are participating unit owners, who belong to a rental pool that allows the Longboat Key Club and Resort to rent out their units. It’s a similar arrangement that the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort has with its unit owners.
Both resorts also sit on beachfront property overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
But, in 2009, that’s about where the similarities end.
The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort suspended its hotel operations last month after a five-year battle with its association’s board of directors. The association has refused to assess its 234 unit owners for assessments on aging condominium buildings.
Meanwhile, further south on Gulf of Mexico Drive, the 221-unit owners of the Inn on the Beach continue to approve assessment after assessment to upgrade their hotel units.
Inn on the Beach unit owners didn’t always have a great relationship with their board of directors.
Just ask Longboat Key resident Dr. George Noble.
Noble, the secretary of the Inn on the Beach Board of Directors since 2004, was the only board member left standing after unit owners recalled their board in November 2007, after refusing to approve a $12.1 million project for new glass doors and sliders.
The recall, and the six new board members who followed, taught him a lesson, Noble said.
“If you want to be a successful condominium board on Longboat Key or anywhere else, you have to have a good relationship with hotel management and your unit owners,” Noble said.
The present board, Noble said, has board members with building experience and a willingness to put the time in needed to get the job done.
It has paid off.
After the recall, the new Inn on the Beach Board of Directors went to work and soon came back to unit owners with a cheaper $6.3 million contract proposal that included new sliding-glass doors and sliders for the entire hotel.
And that $6.3 million price also included all new windows and hurricane-proof front doors, both of which can withstand winds of up to 140 mph.
Along with that price tag were new tile walkways on all the corridors of the hotel and the replacement of the spoked balcony railings with new glass-panel railings.
“The whole envelope of our building will now be protected,” Noble said. “And it’s all because the new board is more savvy, knew how to bid contracts and listened to both the owners and hotel management.”
Noble said the new project ensures better insurance premiums and creates a better ambience for hotel guests.
The project, approved by more than three-quarters of the unit owners, will cost Inn on the Beach unit owners approximately $500 per month for six years.
But that’s not the only assessment for which Inn on the Beach unit owners have been willing to pay.
That assessment comes on top of an assessment that unit owners paid a year-and-a-half ago for a remodeling of the interiors and new furniture in all the units.
Each unit owner paid approximately $25,000 to $40,000 for that remodel assessment.
On top of those two assessments, unit owners already paid approximately $40,000 each three years ago to replace all interior surfaces of the units, such as lighting, carpeting and marble countertops.
And, Inn on the Beach unit owners also approved a combined $325,000 life-safety assessment earlier this year that updated heat-and-smoke detectors and alarm systems on the property, putting all three systems on a central-monitoring system.
The unit owners also paid a $325,000 assessment in February 2008 to be in compliance with the town’s backflow-prevention regulations.
And, $55,000 Inn on the Beach association operating funds was used this summer to resurface and upgrade the property’s swimming pool.
In the past three years, each unit owner has paid about $83,000 in assessments, depening on the size of the unit.
That’s on top of each unit owner’s individual insurance and property taxes, as well as $2,500 quarterly assessments for routine maintenance, beach maintenance and landscaping.
And, the Inn on the Beach Board of Directors is also considering a $2 million elevator replacement and another future project that will include the replacement of cast-iron plumbing and waterproofing of the buildings.
“Without these expenditures, our board and our unit owners know we would lose market share and operating revenue,” Noble said. “The owners have stepped up to the plate and, in return, the units have more than retained their value.”
Noble, who owns two one-bedroom units at Inn on the Beach, was a former Colony Beach & Tennis Resort unit owner.
“I bought a Colony unit for $125,000 in 1983 and sold it eight years later for $90,000,” Noble said. “I loved the Colony, but I feel badly how that situation is playing out.”
Katie Moulton, president and general manager of The Colony, however, says that original unit owners at the Colony have seen appreciation in their units.
“But our unit owners would have even greater increased values if they had maintained their properties and made the improvements that are expected of them,” Moulton said.
Although hotel operations have been suspended at the Colony, Moulton says she has not spoken to a member of the association’s board of directors about resort business or assessments for more than a year.
Noble, meanwhile, said he and other Inn on the Beach board members are in constant contact with Key Club General Manager Michael Welly.
The result of the assessments, Noble said, is that the occupancy rate at Inn on the Beach was up 15% this summer compared to two years ago.
And, an Inn on the Beach unit owner who bought a unit 10 years ago for $250,000 is now seeing an average appreciation of $200,000, Noble said.
Moulton said the communication between the Inn on the Beach Association and the Key Club’s management “is something we hope our association would consider modeling itself after.”
“Unit owners at the Inn on the Beach understand their obligations to maintain their property and make necessary improvements,” Moulton said.
Moulton said the Colony Association’s unwillingness to assess its unit owners is hurting the resort and its property values.
“All it’s really doing is harming the Colony and its world-renowned standing reputation, while severely damaging their property values in the process,” Moulton said.