Islandside Property Owners Coalition President Bob White has a new goal: $250,000. He is currently trying to raise the money to go into an attorney fund to challenge the town’s approval of the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s Islandside renovation-and-expansion project.
In an e-mail sent by White July 7, to 34 Islandside residents, White asked for $10,000 in minimum contributions from each property owner to raise attorney fees needed for a de novo trial (see box below) that will challenge the project’s approval and whether it’s consistent with the town’s Comprehensive Plan.
Wrote White: “I have been in touch with a number of Islandside property owners who are interested and willing to fund an aggressive appeal of the commission’s decision to approve the Key Club’s development plan. This action would involve a de novo (new trial) action challenging the approval’s consistency with the town’s Comprehensive Plan. This option is considered to have a high probability of success by our attorneys, but of course no guarantee. If the approval is found inconsistent, it would be invalidated. The remedy would be for the town to attempt to amend the Comprehensive Plan, which may require a referendum. It should be noted that our ability to prevail in a referendum is by no means assured.”
White, who requested that his e-mail be confidential, was disappointed to learn Monday that Lighthouse Point resident B.R. “Buzz” Schaberg forwarded it on to the Longboat Key Town Commission.
“It’s unfortunate that Buzz sent that along to the commission,” White said. “It was a private e-mail and was not intended for public viewing.”
In Schaberg’s e-mail to White, he explained he does not support IPOC’s effort.
Schaberg, who says he was opposed to the original project, wrote that it was apparent to him that White was only looking out for the interests of the condominium owners on the beach.
Wrote Schaberg: “Your agenda became painfully obvious to everyone in the final days, when the coalition was fighting to remove all development on the north parcel, in favor of everything being placed on the already massively overdeveloped south parcel. If I were to support a legal effort, it would be to sue you and the coalition for misrepresentation, regarding money previously given to your group. Maybe we will still have a viable opportunity to do that, once we see the structure of your appeal.”
White told The Longboat Observer, however, that no decision has been made on whether to appeal the Islandside project’s approval.
“The only thing we do plan on proceeding with at this point is the administrative appeal of the commission’s decision to make code changes that affected the Islandside project,” White said.
IPOC has until July 30 to appeal the approval of the Islandside project.
Longboat Key Club and Resort attorney Brenda Patten, meanwhile, said an appeal challenging the club’s $400 million project is nothing but a stall tactic.
“Even if a court determined the project was inconsistent with the town’s Comprehensive Plan, that could be easily remedied by the town,” Patten said. “All an appeal will do is delay the development. It won’t kill it.”
City of Sarasota attorney Michael Connolly, who has monitored de novo hearings levied against the city in the past, agreed.
“In almost all cases, the town would have the right to make any changes to make its Comprehensive Plan consistent,” Connolly said. “I would be surprised (if) there would ever be a way to throw out whatever the town recently approved.”
Exploring Their Options
A de novo hearing, says Islandside Property Owners Coalition attorney Michael Furen, is an action pursuant to a state statute, which would allow IPOC to challenge the ordinance approving the Islandside outline development plan amendment and claim it’s inconsistent with the town’s Comprehensive Plan.
Essentially, IPOC would be asking for a new hearing that would require new testimony and evidence to be entered into the record for review by a Sarasota County Clerk of Circuit Court judge.
If the court finds that the project is inconsistent with the town’s Comprehensive Plan, the town can amend the plan to clarify its intent.
In an e-mail IPOC President Bob White sent to 34 Islandside property owners, White said the de novo hearing option “is considered to have a high probability of success by our attorneys.”
A de novo hearing allows the court to make a new decision on a matter under appeal and would not rely solely on the record the Town Commission used to make its decision. De novo means “a second time,” “afresh” or “from the beginning.”
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].