“We’re ready to go, and we’re ready to start construction.”
Ocean Properties Ltd. Vice President Andy Berger made that statement to the nine-person Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board more than once at itsTuesday meeting, in hopes the board would approve a site-plan amendment for the Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort. That site plan asks for 85 units of the town’s 250 tourism unit pool as part of a $30 million renovation-and-expansion project.
The P&Z board unanimously passed the site-plan amendment Tuesday, citing a strong need for the redeveloped hotel and the addition of hotel units that were lost 13 years ago when the Longboat Key Holiday Inn closed its doors.
“When you think about it, we lost 142 hotel rooms in this same general area when the Holiday Inn closed,” said Senior Planner Steve Schield, who told the board that PZ&B staff recommended approval of the site plan. “We are kind of putting many of those units back in the same location where we lost them.”
P&Z board members overwhelmingly approved the project as a whole and recommended it to the commission, with one condition.
Concerned the project doesn’t include a southbound deceleration lane for motorists who are turning into the hotel, board members included a condition that asks the applicant to work with Florida Department of Transportation officials to get a lane approved. Disagreeing with traffic count numbers from a Hilton traffic consultant, the P&Z Board believes the lane would help ease congestion during season from visitors entering the hotel.
“General traffic counts don’t apply on Longboat Key,” said board member George Symanski Jr. “There are a lot of visitors here who slow down and don’t know where they are. Anytime you can take turning movements and move them over, it’s gong to help traffic flow.”
Hilton attorney John Patterson announced the applicant would agree to the condition and would do its best to build the lane, if the state approves it, before the hotel project is complete.
Delray Beach-based Ocean Properties Ltd., owner of the Hilton, the Resort at Longboat Key Club, Lido Beach Resort and Holiday Inn Lido Beach, submitted a site-plan application in September for its long-anticipated project.
If approved, the Hilton will become the first applicant to take advantage of the townwide 250 tourism unit pool.
The site-plan application submitted Sept. 4 calls for redeveloping existing Hilton buildings and the 102 rooms that currently sit on the site, while adding units in a new tower on the property.
As part of the project, the existing tower will be gutted and remodeled, the pool area will be completely redone, and everything to the south of the existing tower will change. The property will get a new lobby building, a new restaurant/meeting space building and the new hotel tower, where all 85 rooms will have views of the Gulf.
The application states: “The Longboat Key hotel must be completely redeveloped and modernized to attract the affluent, upscale visitors that historically supported the local economy of Longboat Key.”
Pending the Longboat Key Town Commission’s approval in January, the project could break ground in May.
“We are very excited about this project,” Berger said. “We love Longboat Key, and our project estimate for this project now sits at $30 million. When you spend that type of money, you are going to get a first-class resort.”
Board members congratulated Hilton owners for coming forward with a project that complies with town codes and doesn’t ask for any departures.
“This will give us a facility that’s desperately needed, and it’s been submitted and designed as well as it can possibly de done,” said board Chairwoman B.J. Bishop.
The commission approved an ordinance that modifies the outline development process (ODP) that distributes the pool of 250 tourism units earlier this year. And in May, P&Z Board members reviewed code and Comprehensive Plan changes that allowed the Hilton to seek a fifth floor and an additional 15 feet in height as part of its project through the site-plan process.
The change allows the Hilton and other T-6 zoning (six tourism units per acre) properties to request to redevelop through the site-plan process.
“We were ready to go a year ago, but issues arose,” Berger said. “Now we’re ready to get to work to bring you something Longboat Key will be proud to have in its community.”
Rooks’s restaurant receives outdoor dining seats
The former Mattison’s Steakhouse at the Plaza restaurant that’s been closed since 2008 will soon transform into a new restaurant.
The Planning and Zoning Board approved a special exception at its Tuesday meeting that grants building owner W. Howard Rooks 50 outdoor dining seats in the southwest corner of the building. A brick pathway from the redeveloped Longboat Key Publix is being built for patrons to gain access from the Publix parking spaces being paved near the property. The restaurant building, located at 555 Bay Isles Parkway, also has 210 indoor seats.
Rooks said he intends to open the restaurant in February or March with a partner, whose name he can’t disclose at this time. The unnamed partner will serve as the restaurant’s chef and general manager.
The board approved the special exception by a 9-0 vote.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected]