At the three-day meeting that our Colony Beach & Tennis Resort Association held in February, I opened with a statement to Colony owners that our Association had become a house divided on the specific issue of whether to try to rehabilitate the existing units at The Colony, or whether to rebuild new units. On April 8, with the purpose of ending this division to give our board direction as to the path to pursue, we concluded a three-week advisory poll of our owners on rehabilitation versus rebuild. The rebuild concept includes making every effort possible to preserve the dozen or so specialty beach units at The Colony, which are closest to the Gulf.
I emphasize this is an advisory poll for our board, and that each of our nine board members has the liberty to interpret these poll results in accordance with he perceives to be his fiduciary obligations to the Colony owners, whom we are elected to represent. This is to lay out how I intend, as chairman of the board, to interpret the results of this poll of Colony owners.
As has been reported April 9 to all of the Colony owners and others on Longboat Key, the poll reveals a significant majority of the voting owners who own one or more of the 237 units at the Colony favor a rebuild. Specifically, 118 units have favored rebuild, and 78 units have favored rehabilitation.
One of our owners and his family owns a large number of units. These units cast 50 votes in favor of rehabilitation. So, when one looks at the by-unit count for everyone else’s units, the margin is 118 units for rebuild, and 28 units for rehabilitation, or just more than 80% favoring rebuild. This is resounding. Even with the 50 votes in this one large stakeholder family included, the 40-vote margin, with more than 60% of the voting units favoring rebuild, is a clear mandate for a rebuild.
Although there is still a great deal of work to do to get to the point where we can make final, binding decisions to move the Colony forward again, the result of this advisory polling is unambiguously and decisively in favor of a rebuild. As such, the ongoing internal debate about rehab versus rebuild needs to end. As president and chairman of the board of the Association, I plan to act accordingly.
For almost a decade, the Colony has been challenged by blocking positions and vetoes caused by parties desiring to force everyone else on the property to accept their formula for a resolution of the situation. But this new poll of the owners, I believe, points the way toward getting on with the business of rebuilding and reopening The Colony.
First, the clear weight of sentiment inside our Association that a rebuild is preferable is consistent with what we perceive to be the overwhelming sentiment on Longboat Key, which is also in favor of a rebuild. Although it is our decision as owners whether to pursue a rebuild or a rehab, we do not live in a vacuum, and it is very encouraging that our owners’ views coincide with those of our neighbors. This means that among our friends and neighbors on Longboat Key, we will be able to amass support rather than foster resistance for our preferred direction. This means that we need not be starting new battles, but can keep our focus on ending old ones.
Second, if you add the votes of our largest single stakeholder to those of the other owners who favor a rebuild, then we are within reach of meeting the threshold needed to consensually move forward with a redevelopment of the property.
This should give the outside developers with whom we are working the confidence that by negotiating a suitable accord with that largest stakeholder interest, these developers can amass the critical votes inside the Association needed to proceed with a redevelopment. And it gives that largest stakeholder interest the opportunity to help us move forward with the strong weight of owner consensus behind our actions.
During my several years of working with the principal of that largest stakeholder family, I always hoped and trusted he would do the right thing and line up with the clear majority of his fellow owners when the time arrived to do so. That time is now.
Third, by showing a clear consensus inside our Association, this poll also strengthens our ability to finalize settlements with the other stakeholders to put an end to the multitude of legal impediments that have rendered it problematic to proceed forward with a redevelopment and re-opening.
Accordingly, I will ask our Association Board, at a public-to-owners teleconference meeting to be held in the next several days, to direct our Owners Advisory Committee on Redevelopment to complete its due diligence to be able to recommend a development partner for a rebuild of the Colony in the near future. The recommended development partner should be asked to focus its attention on three main fronts: 1) working with our largest single-family stakeholder to align their interests with the majority of the other owners favoring a rebuild so that we achieve a consensus that allows us to move forward with redevelopment; 2) answering legitimate questions, which the developer candidates have to date not answered, especially pertaining to costs of the new units, now that there is a real possibility of assembling a threshold consensus within our Association; and 3) helping us end the long-standing legal disputes.
I am, by nature, an optimist. Yet I recognize that there remain plenty of opportunities for people to make mischief. The most troubling is that some parties may calculate it to be in their interest to create a long-term stalemate. The “just wait it out for another five years” strategies need to end, and parties adopting those delay and attrition strategies need be opposed and condemned by the many other invested parties both inside and outside our Association who are ready for a resolution. Everyone needs to see that more is to be gained by cooperation than by intransigence.
I am all too keenly aware of the fact that everybody at the Colony has the ability to get in everybody else’s way with their blocks and their vetoes. I have no further patience for hearing the litany of ways in which various parties can obstruct the process. Nor do our owners want to hear this, nor do our neighbors want to hear this. They want to hear and see how everyone can cooperate and build a consensus to get this done. Let’s get on with it.
Jay Yablon is the president and chairman of the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort Association.