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Longboat Key Wednesday, Jul. 28, 2010 5 years ago

Subcommittee debates island's revitalization

by: Kurt Schultheis Managing Editor

The town’s Vision Plan subcommittee held what its Chairwoman Pat Zunz called “a contentious, but worthwhile discussion” Wednesday, July 21, about how specific the town should be on its future revitalization.

Zunz began the morning meeting by defining the word “vision” as intelligent foresight.

“The Vision Plan should be what we want to be rather than what we currently are,” Zunz said.

The comment started an hour-long discussion on how directly the town should be involved in helping to shape aging facilities such as Whitney Beach Plaza, The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort and Avenue of the Flowers.

Although subcommittee member and Commissioner David Brenner believed that town codes already call for a site to be looked at in its entirety, Zunz and subcommittee member George Symanski Jr. disagreed.

Planning, Zoning and Building Director Monica Simpson explained, for instance, that the Colony site of 18 acres would have to be looked at in its entirety when any renovation plan was submitted, regardless of whether only a portion of the resort property were being renovated.

But Symanski and Zunz believe the Vision Plan could go as far as including statements that could lay out for future developers what the town would like to see done with aging properties.

But the suggestions upset Brenner.

“We can’t tell places like Whitney Beach what to do with their property,” Brenner said. “We’re not a communist country.”

Symanski disagreed, suggesting the plan should lay out a road map for developers.

“A plan is what you might want to see,” Symanski said.

Zunz used Whitney Beach Plaza as a suggestion to make her point.

“Whitney Beach has always struggled, and now it’s pretty much kaput,” said Zunz, who explained she was only using Whitney Beach as an example. “I strongly feel we have an opportunity here to lay out specific proposals about what that plaza could do or what it could become.”

The subcommittee agreed not to name any site specifically, but rather work to craft language that would help developers understand the town is comfortable with an appropriate balance and/or mix of commercial, residential and tourism island-wide and on specific sites.

But subcommittee member and Vice Mayor Jim Brown, a retired architect, told the group that developers don’t need the town’s blessing.

“Developers rarely sit back and wait for us (the town) to put a label on a piece of property,” Brown said. “If developers know something will work better, they will rezone the land or do what they need to do to make it work.”

Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].

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