It is an incontrovertible fact that the Longboat Key Club and Resort could be improved and enhanced and that it would be proper for some sort of economic engine to be created to make this improvement and enhancement feasible.
It would surely be beneficial to its membership, its neighbors and the general ambience in our community.
The courts have ruled, quite reasonably, that our town’s rules and regulations referencing development were neither vague nor ambiguous — but clearly understandable to anyone with a dictionary. The aspersions to the contrary were strictly an aberration in the minds of attorneys.
The subsequent changes — none qualifying as clarifications — to our zoning and amendments to our Comprehensive Plan were strictly an exercise undertaken to accommodate the approvals.
The inhabitants within the gates at Islandside bought into a community that had been clearly defined in our 1984 Comprehensive Plan as one that could contain only two more units.
Subsequently, however, the Town Commission approved — aided by the Planning and Zoning Board and, ostensibly, abetted by town counsel and associated attorneys — within the Islandside development, the Key Club’s proposal for 158 condominiums and 196 tourism units (all dwelling units), 354 dwelling units altogether. Also included were many other amenities and commercial entities. And this was approved in spite of the former director of planning, zoning and building recommending disapproval because it was “too dense.”
Recent changes to our zoning codes have now pushed aside these precise declarations of availability for additional units to the extent that several thousand units can now be built within these two PUDs (Islandside and Bay Isles). This was accomplished by reincarnating the pre-Arvida zoning of 5.05 units per original acre for Islandside and 3.26 units per original acre for Bay Isles. This is notwithstanding the fact that these two PUDs are ostensibly completely built-out except for the recreational properties owned by the Key Club.
These two PUDs represent exactly what the original developers had in mind when they planned and built them, knowing full well that they could have requested approval for more units. But they chose, instead, to create the limited-density, beautiful gated communities, which epitomize Longboat Key.
Our town, in its wisdom, had adopted a provision to the Town Charter in 1984 that stipulated that no increase in density can be approved without a referendum. It says:
Article II, Sec. 22, (b) — Comprehensive Plan for town. The present density limitations provided in the existing Comprehensive Plan as adopted March 12, 1984, shall not be increased without the referendum approval of the electors of Longboat Key.
This provision had been scrupulously followed when 250 tourism units were proposed as Ordinance 2008-34, approved by the electorate March 18, 2008, and adopted by the Town Commission June 18, 2009. Note that none of these tourism units was allowed to be constructed within the existing PUDs.
The Longboat Observer stated that the implementation of the Key Club’s proposal would “achieve what the commissioners and (and majority of Longboaters) wanted.” I know full well that it is what the commissioners wanted. If you sincerely believe it is what the majority of Longboaters want, consider:
Go to the electorate. Clearly spell out the facts. Follow the procedure of our Town Charter. Implement the “referendum” that our Town Charter demands for increasing the “density limitations” of the 1984 Comprehensive Plan. Then, in the event that you do, indeed, receive the approval of the electorate, file the original plans and proceed.
But, it would be helpful if the neighbors could be called in for collaboration and consultation before plans are finalized.
Please understand: We live in a nation constituted as a constitutional democracy. It guarantees that the rights of all its citizenry must be protected, even if some of them live in “12-story beachfront condominiums.” These people have a right to protect the interests, as the courts have affirmed are theirs and on which they should be able to rely. These people have a great investment in their homes and contribute into our tax base and the general ambience of our area.
I, personally, consider the town lucky that IPOC did not go after the town for reimbursement of their expenses in protecting their rights against the scent of malfeasance that engendered this collision.
Bradford Saivetz is a former member of the Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board and 35-year resident of Longboat Key.