After eight days of hearings and public testimony that took more than a month and a half to complete, The Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board moved The Longboat Key Club and Resort’s Islandside renovation and expansion project forward to the Town Commission for its review next month with a 4-3 vote Thursday at Temple Beth Israel.
The application was not moved forward, however, without some caveats.
Out of a list of 40 conditions presented that must be met prior to project approval, club officials still have an issue with six of those conditions — even after meeting with town staff to work through their differences over the last week. Planning board members and club officials also could not agree on a concrete condition that guarantees the five-star hotel will be built as part of the project.
So now it’s up to the Longboat Key Town Commission to review the project at 9 a.m. Friday, Jan. 8, at Temple Beth Israel and make the ultimate decision on the $400 million project.
The Islandside project calls for constructing 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 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 Key Club Attorney John Patterson suggested club officials consider building one of the proposed condominium towers at the same time as the hotel, some planning board members were happy to hear the club was considering a compromise.
Planning board vice chair Al Hixon called the club’s plan “brilliant,” but called the hotel “a lynch pin in the board’s decision making process.”
Hixon suggested the club consider adding four floors with 68 residential units to the top of the hotel because the club contends the hotel cannot be built without the money being used from condominium sales.
Key Club General Manager Michael Welly agreed to have his architects look at the concept.
Welly tried to assuage the planning board’s concern about the hotel by explaining that the project doesn’t work without it.
“The hotel’s cash flow moving forward makes the project financially viable,” Welly said.
After considerable discussion, planning board member John Redgrave made a motion to approve the ordinance proposed by staff that includes the conditions agreed upon, the conditions not agreed upon and the suggestions proposed both by town staff and club officials on the conditions in question.
“We have been over and over and over this,” Redgrave said. “Send the document to the commission and let them sort it out.”
Planning board member George Symanski disagreed with Redgrave’s motion.
“We’re not doing our job if we do that,” Symanski said. “We are supposed to forward our recommendation to the commission.”
But the majority of the seven board members in attendance approved Redgrave’s motion before noon Thursday, which recommends approval of the ordinance with the conditions proposed and asks the commission “to place reasonable conditions requiring the construction of the hotel through a phasing change or otherwise.”
Planning board members Hixon, Redgrave, Walter Hackett and Pat Zunz approved the motion. Symanski, Morton Siegler, and Phineas Alpers were the dissenting votes.
Both Welly and Islandside Property Owners Coalition Bob White, whose coalition opposes the project, were happy with the board’s decision.
Said Welly: “The planning board did a great job handling a project of this scope. It’s the right time to acknowledge their accomplishments and agree its time to move the rest of the issues forward to the Town Commission.”
“We’re fine with the fact this project is moving forward. We will make a strong case next month and see if common ground can be reached on the Town Commission level,” White said.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at email@example.com.
Islandside issues left to be resolved
• The location of the gatehouse and potential traffic conflicts resulting from the proposed redevelopment.
• The lot coverage of the north parcel.
• Open space and recreation requirements.
• Potential mitigation measures for traffic impacts on Gulf of Mexico Drive and Longboat Club Road.
• The guarantee that the hotel will be constructed.
• The beautification/improvement of entryways and rights-of-ways on Gulf of Mexico Drive.