+ Colony Association should pay consequences
Dear Mayor Brown, Vice Mayor Brenner, Commissioners, Mr. Bullock and Town Officials:
Although I sincerely respect and appreciate the thoughtful and impassioned discussions that took place among the Longboat Key town commissioners during the special meeting (Monday, Sept. 24), there continue to be some exceptionally complex issues that are barriers to the Colony Association being able to meet or even being realistically compelled to address what I heard and understand to be the concerns of the commissioners and the Colony’s neighbors.
To be clear, the last thing that I want for my fellow Colony condominium owners or for the town is a loss of density and property rights, however, as our Aquarius neighbors have so succinctly put it — “enough is enough.”
It is time to establish definitive plans and consequences for the Board, not give it more years to procrastinate! Without conditions that are enforceable, in light of the lack of meaningful action by the current Association Board at the Colony over their last six years of leadership, it is our position that serious consequences for failure to meet milestones, maintain promises and fulfill directives of the Longboat Key Building Department and the commission must be established.
An example of the Board’s past performance can be seen in its lack of fulfillment of its own commitment within the reorganization plan accepted by the unit owners and the Bankruptcy Court in April 2009:
“Assessments will include amounts to cover the costs for administering the condominium property at The Colony including, without limitation, maintenance and repairs of the common elements of the condominium. The Debtor has obtained a preliminary report from Karins to extend the usability of The Colony for a period of three years. The work will include long-lasting repairs, such as selected building foundations and support beams, and temporary repairs to other building components, such as selected siding repair. The estimated total project cost is $489,000. When the Plan is confirmed, the Debtor will implement these recommendations to be paid by special Assessments of the Unit Owners.”
The mid-rise building has recently been deemed unsafe for occupancy as a result of structural deterioration, which will require considerable expense to the unit owners to repair. Add to that the now well-publicized mold remediation that will be required in that building, and the unit owners are faced with a serious situation.
Little was discussed in the commission meeting to address the demands that the Longboat Key Building Department made on the Association to make immediate repairs to the mid-rise building — to quote the building official’s letter, “To preserve the building and prevent the building from becoming an imminent danger the following actions shall occur,” and a series of specific actions was listed. Without penalties with “teeth,” how will the mid-rise building be kept from becoming an “imminent danger”?
The pace of meaningful action by the Association Board that has been in control of the Colony Association for more than six years is slow at best and, given its years of refusal to pay for power and water for the midrise (and all other condo units on property), without immediate and definitive/measurable plans with punitive consequences, allowing the Association to continue untethered will likely render the mid-rise building forever useless.
I have personally been funding the utilities for the midrise since the Board’s refusal to pay, but why should I now maintain this burden if its neglect has caused me to be evicted from my home.
My wife and I feel thoroughly disgusted by the Board’s disrespectful and impudent act of not answering three letters from our attorney asking how it will address being ejected from our home and office because of its neglect. I haven’t received the courtesy of a reply, or even a letter expressing concern or compassion for being torn away from our personal and business possessions. This is the nature of the Board to which you are potentially giving open and unconditioned extensions.
The list of expectations from the neighbors was more robust than what the Association’s attorney noted had been accomplished in the recent burst of activity that the Board has executed at the property. An example of embellishment of the reality is its implying that there is proper security on the property. By stating that the Association property manager is there “every day” from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (he’s really only there Monday through Friday and often tied up overseeing and meeting with owners, board and contractors coming for site visits) and occasional patrols by the Longboat Key Police Department (that ALL island tax payers are funding) is adequate, gives me, and I would assume our neighbors, little comfort that proper action has been taken to secure the property. This is no more than has been the practice for the last two years, and perhaps a visit to the police records would remind one of the prolific vandalism and concerns from the neighbors of vagrancy that have occurred with the current system.
Additionally, the pest-and-vermin control that the neighbors asked for amounts to a handful of rodent bait stations set around the exterior of the buildings. What about those vermin that have already made a home in the buildings? Not bringing in a proper contractor with the ability to assess the whole of the situation, including serious problems with termites and bees, is barely scratching the surface of the expectations of our neighbors.
And what about the “consequences” currently and vaguely outlined should the Board not meet the commitments it is making? The Association’s attorney already stated he doesn’t believe the $50,000 bond demanded by the commission is “legal,” so, then, how might he respond if the only recourse against it not meeting deadlines and milestones is to forfeit the bond … a lawsuit against the town?
Firm and meaningful penalties for failure to meet milestones or to cause (or continue to allow) other town policy violations have to be implemented. Without significant sanctions, perhaps including a revocation of the extension of the non-conforming use for failures to keep commitments, the town has little influence over the Board for meeting its promises to the town and its neighbors.
This current Colony Association Board, as mentioned earlier, has been in “control” of the maintenance and plans for repairs of common areas and condominium buildings since January 2007. The commission was right to ask what will be different if it agrees to allow a 36-month extension of the non-conforming density … if this group hasn’t been able to make a single improvement of consequence to the property, meet its obligations to the bankruptcy court in its own reorganization plan or bring a proper and qualified developer to the table during its six-year tenure, what could possibly be different now?
I have always been, and continue to be, ready to establish a reasonable resolution for my interests in the global negotiations with all interested parties at The Colony. Not once has anyone from the Association attended a settlement discussion with any concrete financial means or evidence of ability to resolve the issues.
I await that day with eager anticipation and commit myself to you that I will maintain my willingness and readiness to find the best possible resolution for our beloved Colony — a passion and institution that has been my family’s life and love for the last more than 40 years.
Dr. Murray “Murf” Klauber,
Longtime Colony owner
+ Mayor Brown was misleading in response
In Mayor Jim Brown’s response to my letter on the Sept. 20 editorial page last week, he made a number of points that are misleading and deserve response:
• Building a 12-story hotel, 155 condos, a garage and convention center is a development, not re-development. I don’t think it’s wrong; it’s just out of scale and was in violation of the applicable codes.
• Mayor Brown said the community is “deteriorating.” If Publix and CVS thought the Key was deteriorating, why would they have made this investment?
• Mayor Brown said, “Even in your neighborhood, most of the houses that sell are demolished and new homes are built.” Not true. My neighborhood is more than 30 years old. Two houses were demolished and rebuilt four or five years ago. Houses that are selling today are being spruced up, both inside and out.
• Mayor Brown said, “If Longboat Key doesn’t keep up with the trends of today, you will be selling your home to people looking to buy cheap homes, not people looking to retire in an ‘elite’ community. Look around. The Colony, Whitney Beach, etc., etc., etc.” An attempt to tie solutions for these properties to the Key Club’s development in an upscale neighborhood is a disingenuous argument at best and blatantly misleading at worst.
• Mayor Brown said, “Building and zoning codes are a fluid thing.” But changing them at the whim of a town government, to the detriment of one neighborhood for the questionable advantage of others, financial benefits to the town and the developer smacks as the worst kind of crony capitalism.
Mayor Brown said, “This is not about more money for the owners of the Key Club, it is about the salvation of the future of Longboat Key.” Salvation? An island that was rated No. 2 in North America! Talk about hyperbole!