The fourth day of the Planning and Zoning Board’s Longboat Key Club and Resort’s Islandside renovation and expansion project hearing began this morning with project supporters and opponents making their voices heard.
About 100 Key residents and business owners filled Temple Beth Israel Friday, Nov. 5 to make their voices heard about a $400 million project that includes a new Rees Jones-designed golf course; a new clubhouse; a new 196 room five-star hotel with an additional 34 units to be used either for tourism or 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.
Members of the public who spoke are listed below:
Todd Stern, Sands Point resident
“Don’t think for a second the plan is uniformly opposed by those that live behind the gates. The coalition and Bob White does not speak for me and many others who live behind the gates. The expansion and renovation is the best thing that could happen to the club and Longboat Key.”
Claude Engle, Longboat Key resident
“What we have here is a marvelous mechanism that can bring in income as a resort and a hotel. If we have a club that can support itself, we must let it have the ability to change itself and stay the wonderful hotel we remember when we first moved here.”
Kathleen Callender, Longboat Key resident
“Without approval of the expansion, the clientele of the club revenues will decline. The decision is an easy one. Be a part of this and make it happen.”
Terry Gans, Bay Isles resident
“The club’s proposal is a unique opportunity to upgrade a deteriorating resort. We on Longboat are in a fight. We are competing with Naples, Boca Raton, Scottsdale, Ariz., and other places to attract visitors. The dollars these tourists spend can spell the difference between the rest of our businesses thriving or failing.”
Carole Nikla, Sarasota resident; former Holiday Inn Longboat Key manager
“I worked the Holiday Inn Longboat Key for 16 years and am a longtime Sarasota resident. We renovated the Holiday Inn three times. It’s a nightmare, but renovations need to be done. Hotels also need meeting space to attract the group market. The island should look at this expansion as an asset to the community. The club should be commended for upgrading and adding on their resort to bring vitality and life back to the island.”
Paul Holland, Lighthouse Point resident
“If we start breaking the zoning codes, can I ask for more square footage for my garage at my house? I committed to the town’s rules. I’m a member and fan of the club, but I’m not a fan of their approach.”
Carmel Izzo, Sands Point resident
“I am here to ask this board to protect my interests and pay attention to this density issue. This board is not here to be Santa Claus for the Longboat Key Club and Resort. The only thing I ask you to do is protect my rights, my peace and my tranquility in the days I have left on this earth.”
John Saputo, Lighthouse Point resident
We enthusiastically endorse the plan to update and expand the community. The club is an icon and a jewel to the community. Improvements will enhance our quality of life and improve our property values. Too many of our properties are in disrepair. This project will spark rejuvenation. The lifeblood of any community is new money. Please allow the owners of club to take our island to the next level.
“There was no indication when I moved here that a commercial center and high rise condos could be built on the golf course. Loeb Partners acts like it owns all the property behind the gates and is trying to convince you to build their project. We want the club to be successful, but at the same time, we want our property rights protected and want to be able to support the plan.”
Mary Ann O’Neil, Islandside resident
“I’m struggling with how this plan is designed to help the people you represent. It will change this quiet community into a bustling tourist destination. Residents on this island like the quiet ambience. To say this is a dying community is ludicrous.”
John Westerberg, Key resident
“I suggest it would be better for Longboat Key to spend and invest their money in improving conditions of golf course and the facilities that now exist. You have no assurances this project will ever be built.”
Virginia Haley, president of Sarasota Convention & Visitors Bureau
“We need traditional hotel properties that attract people with things like golf courses and meeting centers. The Sarasota Ritz-Carlton gave the city new business, and that’s what we believe would be coming here. This property is outstanding and we are looking forward to an outstanding project.”
Marnie Matarese, Longboat Key real-estate agent
“We are not an island onto ourselves. We are part of a community and we need to start acting like it. Look to the voting public who sent you a clear vision saying we need change and we need it now.”
David Snyder, Longboat Key resident
“The developer wants to do a project completely contrary to the town code. Do we want to change the personality of the island and make it a commercial enterprise as you come over the bridge?”
The planning board’s Islandside hearing will be continued at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11, at which time attorneys from both sides can offer rebuttals and the board members can begin to deliberate the project. If needed, the planning board has also set aside Nov. 17, Dec. 4 and Dec. 10 as future dates to make a recommendation to the Town Commission, which has the final say over the project.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].