Last week, Longboat Key Club and Resort General Manager Michael Welly said there was no plan B for his resort’s $400 million Islandside renovation-and-expansion project.
But, knowing that his chances for getting any sort of project approved on Longboat Key are coming down to two final chances — Monday, June 28 and Wednesday, June 30 — Welly and his staff are considering other options for the Town Commission’s consideration.
Those options include:
• Taking the proposed wellness center away from the proposed hotel and placing it on the north parcel, in exchange for building one seven-story, 26-unit building over one level of parking.
• Raising one of the villa buildings along the Pass one floor to add two additional condominium units.
• Developing four four-story villa buildings over one level of parking on the north parcel that would hold 32 units.
The changes, Welly noted, would create more pedestrian traffic along Longboat Club Road from people going back and forth from the hotel and the meeting center.
But, the most dramatic change, if accepted, would reduce the number of condominium units the club originally wanted to build in two condominium towers on the north parcel from 70 units to 60 units spread out over both parcels.
“If you take the 32 villa units on the north parcel and the 28 units on the south parcel, it starts to make some financial sense for us,” Welly said.
Since the commission approved on first reading June 14, a redevelopment plan crafted by town attorney David Persson, Welly said he and his team of architects and attorneys have been working tirelessly to figure out what the club can present that will work for the town.
“It’s a frustrating process because we can’t talk to the commissioners about it,” Welly said. “But, clearly, the ordinance that was approved on first reading sort of directed us to move the wellness center and replace it with a seven-story building over one level of parking.”
But Welly says the only way that concept will work is if the commission allows some residential units on the north parcel.
At the June 14 hearing, Commissioner Robert Siekmann and others said for the first time the biggest hang-up for them was any sort of residential component north of Longboat Club Road.
Nothing frustrated Welly more during that hearing than those comments.
“The notion of us building or developing residential on the north parcel shouldn’t be foreign to anyone,” Welly said. “Houses exist there now.”
Noting there are large houses that exist now on the north parcel, Welly said the villas the club may propose to the commission Monday, June 28, fit in well with the character of the existing neighborhood.
The changes, Welly said, may also reduce departures from town code because the club won’t need to ask for height departures.
“My favorite plan for this project was one that was presented months and months ago,” Welly said. “What we may propose is not ideal for us by any means.”
Although it may not be ideal, Welly said it could be a viable project if the commission were to consider it.
“We are trying to follow what the commission seems to be asking for,” Welly said.
The club, Welly said, is still tinkering with the meeting center and will consider moving it closer to Longboat Club Road if it’s possible.
In exchange for the modifications that may be presented, Welly said he would only hope the Town Commission would consider reducing the $4 million contribution that’s been proposed in exchange for the reduction of open space.
Said Welly: “If the town likes this new scheme with 10 less condos, we would hope that they would give us a little relief on the monetary condition.”
Welly notes that if the commission sticks to the $4 million condition, the club would have to pay $5.5 million total because it’s already agreed to pay $1 million for road improvements and $500,000 for Gulf of Mexico Drive landscaping.
Welly said the club is working on sketches that it’s trying to get to Planning, Zoning and Building Director Monica Simpson as soon as possible.
For now, Welly says he’s not sure what to call these project modifications.
“I’m not sure how this is going to be presented,” Welly said. “It could either be a new plan we are recommending next week or a backup plan to our primary plan.”
Commissioners cannot comment on any potential changes being brought forward until they review them at the hearing, where they act as judges in a quasi-judicial setting.
Club attorney John Patterson said the club will continue to take the week to review any possible modifications.
“We are continually looking at all options to find the best possible solution for the best possible redevelopment that will be acceptable to the town and will work for the club,” Patterson said.
OFF LIFE SUPPORT
Longboat Key Club and Resort General Manager Michael Welly told The Longboat Observer last week he was happy to hear from town attorney David Persson that the Town Commission can approve the Islandside renovation-and-expansion project on second reading at the end of the month if it wishes.
Persson sent an e-mail to the commission Tuesday, June 15, explaining any commissioner can make an amendment to the ordinance at 5:01 p.m. Monday, June 28, at Temple Beth Israel.
Persson said the commission could approve on second reading an amended ordinance that includes the golf course condominium towers, which were removed in the ordinance that was approved last week.
Ordinance language submitted by Persson shows that the project the club submitted on Monday, June 14 could be approved June 28 and would not be deemed a “substantial or material change.”
In short, the club’s project, or a different project the commission agrees to, could be approved on second reading June 28 or Wednesday, June 30.
Said Welly: “Loeb Partners Realty investors believe this project is too important to walk away from without one last chance at finding middle ground at the end of the month.”
Spoll disappointed with comments
Mayor George Spoll takes issue with both residents and fellow commissioners who have criticized the way he handled the last Islandside project hearing June 14.
Commissioner Lynn Larson expressed disappointment last week that the mayor ended the last hearing after the commission voted 4-3 to approve a redevelopment plan proposed by town attorney David Persson.
When asked to comment on some of the feedback that blames the mayor for ending the meeting, Spoll said, “I tried to encourage debate among commissioners during that entire meeting. I kept asking for further debate. No one wanted to speak further, at which point I had no choice but to ask for the town clerk to call the role. That’s my obligation. The commission decided to vote, and the town attorney confirmed for me there was nothing further to discuss before I adjourned the meeting.”
As of Monday, June 22, town commissioners have received approximately 80 e-mails from residents since the June 14 hearing. Twenty-five of those e-mails include harsh criticism of commissioners for not approving the club’s project.
“Some of them were not constructive,” Spoll said of the e-mails. “They (residents) should instead be encouraging the commission to make appropriate amendments.”
Vice Mayor Jim Brown, meanwhile, was overwhelmed by the e-mails and constant phone.
Said Brown: “I held court in my living room.”