A somber expression on his face, Longboat Key Club and Resort General Manager Michael Welly sat Monday at a conference-room table covered with a 4-by-7-foot model of the club’s proposed redevelopment project. He described his reaction in three words: “Surprised and disappointment.”
He was meeting Monday with David Leach, the Key Club’s project manager, and club attorney John Patterson to strategize how to respond to Friday’s memorandum from Monica Simpson, Longboat Key’s director of building, planning and zoning. Simpson issued a 17-page memo recommending the Town Commission deny the Key Club’s $400 million redevelopment plan.
“At this time, based on staff’s review of the amended Outline Development Plan amendment application,” Simpson wrote, “staff recommends denial of the request. However, it should be made abundantly clear that staff is not opposed to the general mix of land uses that are proposed for the redevelopment. Rather, it is the magnitude of the land uses and the manner in which the interrelationship of the land uses is designed.”
For Bob White, president of the Islandside Property Owners Coalition, Simpson’s report offered his group validation. “It’s interesting that many of her comments, most of them in fact, were very similar to the position we have been taking all along,” White said. “That is that the project as presented is too massive, too intense and overdeveloped.”
Not only did Simpson write of a half-dozen objections to the project in her memo, she also submitted a 28-page proposed ordinance that will go before town commissioners at 9 a.m. Monday, June 7. The ordinance proposes to approve and permit the development, but it contains at least four stipulations that added to the frustrations of Key Club management. If approved, these stipulations are likely to add millions of dollars to the cost of the project. One could kill it.
Among the stipulations:
• The Key Club would pay for all of the town’s legal fees “incurred by the town as a result of the approvals” of the project.
• The commission would negate a 30-year-old agreement between the town and the Arvida Corp. by which Arvida contributed Quick Point Park to the town to meet its then-current and future open-space requirements connected to the Islandside development. Negating the agreement would open the Key Club to paying cash or donating land to the town to fulfill open-space requirements.
• The Islandside guard gate would be moved farther west on Longboat Club Road. If the commission requires this, Welly said, it would kill the project. Reason: The Longboat Club Road Association has veto power over the location of the guard gate and heretofore has opposed moving the gate.
Simpson said Monday she hadn’t taken a position for or against the project until now because “it was a moving target,” changing numerous times over the course of two years. But after receiving final materials May 5, she addressed her concerns and objections in detail. Among them:
• The number and magnitude of departures. She noted the Key Club is seeking 25 departures from town codes. One that she cites specifically is the proposed 11-story hotel building on the south side of Longboat Club Road.
In one paragraph in her report, she says, “While staff does not have general objections to the height of the hotel building, which is consistent with the heights of the structures within the GPD, the requested departure is extreme … The applicant is requesting an increase in structural height, a decrease in the separation between buildings and an increase in lot coverage. As a result, it is the opinion of staff that the South Parcel departures produce inappropriate bulk, mass and scale.”
• The hotel and meeting center being on opposites sides of Longboat Club Road. She said that is “not recommended as functional land-use planning.” Simpson believes this will create safety concerns for hotel guests walking across the street to and from the meeting center and Islandside clubhouse.
Patterson said the club has designed the hotel’s sidewalks and landscaping in such a way that pedestrians would use a single crosswalk. Welly said the club also would monitor the crosswalk to provide pedestrian supervision if required.
What’s more, Welly said, similar pedestrian situations have worked successfully at Sarasota’s Hollywood 20 Theater on Main Street, Morton’s Market on Osprey and at the Hyde Park shopping and residential area in Tampa.
Overall, Simpson calls for “a cohesive site, with an acceptable internal vehicular and pedestrian circulation system.”
For Welly, that’s code for either: 1) moving the hotel to the north side of Longboat Club Road; 2) moving the meeting center to the south side of Longboat Club Road; or 3) moving the road north of all of the buildings.
“It’s almost like you’re setting up a problem with no solution,” Patterson said. “So the only solution is you don’t build the project and don’t improve the property.”
Welly maintains the club’s proposal is consistent with the intensity and density that already exists in the area. “We were surprised with the amount of subjectivity” in Simpson’s report, he said.
Added Welly: “We’re trying to update the property and have it pay for itself. We wanted to work with the town and find a middle road that would work for everyone. And twice we’ve adjusted the project significantly.”
His frustration showing, Welly said: “Our whole redesign was discussed in detail with her. But she doesn’t tell you if it’s not quite right.”
To which Simpson said Tuesday: “I’ve voiced my concerns and voiced my concerns. I sat at a meeting recently and said, ‘You guys don’t seem to want to move the buildings around.’ That’s when you have a developer who doesn’t want to listen.”
Longboat Key Planning, Zoning and Building Director Monica Simpson said some of the stipulations in the proposed ordinance that would approve the Key Club project are “launching points” for discussion, such as requiring the Key Club to pay for all the town’s legal fees. A few other stipulations:
• The Key Club would install an 8-foot-wide sidewalk the length of the Islandside golf course on the west side of Gulf of Mexico Drive.
• The Key Club would contribute $500,000 toward landscaping the southern entrance to the town.
• The town manager must approve traffic-control plans for all events of 500 or more attendees at the meeting center.
Model On Display
Contact Kurt Schultheis at email@example.com