After five days of testimony from attorney and members of the public, The Longboat Key Club and Resort’s Islandside renovation and expansion project is now in the hands of the town’s Planning and Zoning Board, which will begin to discuss the project Tuesday, Nov. 17.
Town special counsel attorney Nancy Stroud started the fifth day of public hearings Wednesday, Nov. 11 at Temple Beth Israel by explaining that town regulations and codes permit mixed-use development and commercial uses within the Islandside gulf-planned development.
Only about 50 residents and attorneys attended the fifth day of hearings, far less than the 350 who showed up when the hearing began last month.
Stroud, along with Planning, Zoning and Building Director Monica Simpson, dispelled arguments addressed by the attorneys representing opponents of the project.
“The town’s Comprehensive Plan allows mixed uses in a gulf-planned development,” Stroud said. “Town policy supports the idea that a gulf-planned development is a proper tool for redevelopment.”
Stroud told the planning board that commercial development “is clearly allowed” and also said that unused density that wasn’t used by past applicants “does not simply evaporate.”
Those statements are in direct contrast to those delivered by Islandside Property Owners Coalition attorneys last week, which told the board density could not be transferred to other sites and commercial development was not allowed within Islandside.
Stroud also refuted IPOC’s claim that a meeting center and residential units cannot be built on a recreational golf course parcel in Islandside.
“Nothing in the town’s Comprehensive Plan limits allocation of density strictly to development sites only,” Stroud said.
Simpson told the planning board that it should not worry about much of the public testimony that urged the board not to approve a project that has no specific building-phasing schedule in place.
“If the outline development plan is amended by the Town Commission, a site plan review would later occur that would address those concerns,” Simpson said.
Although Simpson said her staff still has issues with the project that need to be addressed, she said her department doesn’t “hate the project.”
“As long as this board outlines clear conditions for approval, you can recommend this project,” Simpson said.
The club is proposing to construct a new Rees Jones-designed golf course; a new clubhouse; a 196-room, five-star hotel with an additional 34 units to be used either for tourism or luxury residences; a new meeting center; two villa townhomes with a total of 10 units; two condominium buildings with 66 units each; a new wellness center with enhanced spa and fitness facilities; and other recreational amenities for club members and guests.
When the club attorneys took to the stand before lunch for rebuttal, club attorney John Patterson told the board the club is still willing to move the Longboat Club Road gatehouse if the Longboat Key Road Association, which owns the road, agrees.
Patterson asked the board to consider recommending approval that would leave the gatehouse where it is, while understanding the club will work with the association to move the gatehouse 123 feet west of its current location to alleviate any traffic buildup coming off of Gulf of Mexico Drive.
Patterson also presented to the planning board a list of conditions that will have to be met if the town approves the Islandside renovation and expansion project.
One of those conditions involve agreeing to a phasing schedule that includes redeveloping the golf course, the golf clubhouse and building the wellness center first. Ten golf course condominiums would be built in the next phase, followed by condominium buildings and the five-star hotel, which is scheduled to be built last.
Planning board member George Symanksi Jr., however, told club officials he objected to the phase schedule and asked the club to move that component higher up in the phasing stage.
“You’re asking us to eat condos, with no assurance a hotel will be built,” Symanski said.
Key Club General Manager Michael Welly, however, said the hotel is crucial to the success of the meeting center and the golf course, which is being built in the first phase of the project.
“It’s clearly our intent the hotel be an important part of a finished product,” Welly said.
Symanski proposed the club consider making a contribution to the Bayfront Park Recreation Center renovation as a trade-off for the deletion of some open space at Islandside, but planning board member John Wild disagreed.
“I don’t like the idea of trying to cut deals up here from the dais,” Wild said. “If we approve a hotel, we will get hotel taxes from it.”
When IPOC’s attorneys presented rebuttals, attorney Robert Lincoln told the board that the club was trying to propose twice the density that’s currently behind the gates today and did not accurately depict its density and open space calculations.
“How can you let this go forward legally when this board hasn’t had a chance to review a complete application with accurate numbers and calculations?” Lincoln asked.
Patterson had the opportunity to speak last and took an opportunity to refute claims made by IPOC’s attorneys.
“IPOC took two hours to give you convoluted reasons why you don’t have the legal right to do anything with this application,” Patterson said. “Meanwhile, town staff and town attorneys said the town has the legal right to approve this project.”
The planning board will reconvene the hearing 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 17, at which time the board will begin to discuss the application and make a recommendation to the Town Commission. The Town Commission will make the ultimate decision on the application.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].
The Longboat Key Club and Resort has submitted a list of project approval conditions its willing to adhere to. Those include:
• Making the meeting center and hotel available for public use
• Agreeing to a phasing schedule that redevelops the golf course and the golf clubhouse and builds the wellness center first.
• Placing four tennis courts in Islandside that will replace a pavilion structure and multi-use court.
• Working with the town and the city of Sarasota on the area’s transportation issues.
• Addressing water issues and water retention issues
• Donating the services of the club’s design team to create a plan to update the southern entrance of Longboat Key.
• Submitting a management plan for special events and how to deal with event traffic.