Although Longboat Key Planning, Zoning and Building Director Monica Simpson said Friday in a staff report she could not recommend approval of the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s proposed $400 million redevelopment and expansion, Key Club officials and attorneys said they are not alarmed.
Club officials said Tuesday they will not postpone Planning and Zoning Board public hearings to be held at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21, and Thursday, Oct. 22, at Temple Beth Israel, and will have the information available at the hearings to dispel and resolve Simpson’s concerns.
“The differences between Monica Simpson’s memorandum and the club’s application are not nearly as serious as it may appear upon a casual reading of the report,” said Key Club General Manager Michael Welly. “When corrections and clarifications are made, and additional information is provided by the club, we believe that the Planning and Zoning Board will find overwhelming evidence that it should approve the club’s application for redevelopment.”
Mike Seery, president of the Sanctuary Master Association and an Islandside Property Owners Coalition director, meanwhile, was pleased with Simpson’s report, which he called thorough and complete.
“We were gratified to see town staff elaborated on some of the concerns we have expressed from the very beginning about the project,” Seery said. “We are looking forward with confidence to the upcoming hearings.”
Simpson’s recommendation came 11 days before Key Club officials begin their journey through the town’s planning and zoning board and, later, to the Town Commission.
The club is proposing 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.
Town raises issues
Simpson’s main concerns in her Oct. 9 staff report memorandum focused on three areas:
• Traffic and parking, which Simpson says still need to be addressed because there are potential level of service-road failures that need to be addressed.
• A lack of “sufficient evidence” demonstrating the need for requested departures from the town’s existing land-development regulations.
• A lack of “sufficient evidence” to determine the project’s compliance with open-space and recreational requirements.
Simpson reports in her findings of fact that the proposed development is not consistent with the town’s Comprehensive Plan as it pertains to traffic impacts and, possibly, recreation facilities in regard to the removal of four Islandside tennis courts.
The report also states “the proposed redevelopment plan does not provide adequate control over vehicular traffic and parking” and that the applicant has not adequately justified the need for all of the requested departures it’s asking for within the club’s Gulf-planned development.
The proposed redevelopment, according to Simpson’s report, “clearly departs from the policy of the town that established the club’s south parcel as recreation land and the north parcel as a golf course accessory tract.” The club wishes to build parts of its project on those two parcels.
Key Club Attorney John Patterson said none of the concerns addressed by Simpson in her staff report “is a show-stopper for the club’s project.”
The departures the club is asking for in regard to open space, living ratio and lot coverage requirements, Patterson said, can either be approved or disapproved by the planning board and the Town Commission during the public hearings.
And, traffic engineers for the town and the club are working together to solve traffic issues, said Patterson, who is also working to create a traffic-management plan in case the new hotel would be filled to capacity at the same time the club was handling a major special event.
“Our response to Ms. Simpson’s concern that the perfect storm would occur when everything on club property is running at full capacity is this: It will never, ever happen,” Patterson said. “But, we will address the issue.”
The third concern Simpson has concerns town policy.
“The town has tried to reduce density in the past, and Monica believes the code is more conservative than our application,” said Patterson, who explained it’s up to the board members to decide policy decisions.
“We will do our best to present a better case and are confident with the application we submitted.”
Late Tuesday, Simpson issued corrections to her staff report, which included a clarification that the economic impact the project has on the surrounding community can be considered by planning board members when evaluating the project.
Patterson was happy to receive the clarification, explaining that the project’s economic impact to the area is a main basis for his client’s case.
Simpson, meanwhile, said she did not recommend denial of the club’s application.
“I’m not opposed to redevelopment of the Islandside property,” Daigle said. “I am willing to look at anything club officials want to bring forward between now and Oct. 21 that I can use at the hearings to defend the project.”
At this time, however, Simpson says there are too many application deficiencies to recommend the project’s approval to the planning board.
To see Simpson’s staff report, visit www.longboatkey.org.
FINDINGS OF FACT
Planning, Zoning and Building Director Monica Daigle’s 13 findings of fact regarding the Key Club’s Outline Development Plan Amendment request:
• The proposed development plan is not consistent with the Comprehensive Plan as it pertains to traffic impacts and recreation facilities.
• The plan does not provide adequate control over vehicular traffic and parking.
• The proposed redevelopment clearly departs from the policy of the town that established the club’s south parcel as recreation land and the north parcel as a golf course accessory tract.
• The application sufficiently addresses terms and is intended to protect the interest of the public and of the residents and owners of the planned unit development.
• The applicant has not adequately justified the need for all of the requested departures.
• The requested departures from the maximum floor-area ratio and setbacks appear to be appropriate.
• The requested departure from the maximum building height is consistent with the heights of the other developments in the Gulf-planned development.
• The applicant did not provide sufficient evidence of any existing hardships or provide a sufficient statement of how the requested code departures are necessary.
• There is not sufficient evidence that the proposed redevelopment and requested departures are for the public interest.
• The anticipated participants in the meeting center, the number of tourism units and the number of off-street parking spaces does not appear to be consistent.
• The applicant has not provided calculations to determine compliance with open space regulations.
• The applicant has not provided sufficient evidence that the four tennis courts provided for priority use by Inn on the Beach, which are proposed for removal, are not needed or required.
• The applicant has not provided sufficient evidence that Regent Court and Regent Place’s reliance on the clustered recreation facility at the existing tennis courts on the south parcel are no longer needed or required.