Although Longboat Key may be known for its quiet summers — this summer certainly stood out as one of the “newsiest” in recent history. Key institutions such as the Longboat Key Club and Resort and The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort made headlines almost every week: the Key Club for receiving approval from the Town Commission for a $400 million expansion-and-renovation plan and the Colony for having to close after 41 years of business.
Business news seemed to factor prominently this summer. Andrew Hlywa, who bought Whitney Beach Plaza in summer 2002, announced in June that the sale of the plaza was under contract; and, by October, Brian Kenney, of Juliani Kenney Investment Capital LLC, announced his company’s plans to revitalize the plaza and bring both national chains and local stores. On St. Armands Circle, Carman’s Shoes owner Bill Carman announced in September that he and his family were closing their shop — one of the longest operating Circle businesses— after 45 years on the Circle.
On the political front, Commissioner Gene Jaleski resigned in May following e-mail controversy, and Commissioner Phil Younger stepped in to fill his place on the dais.
In the pages that follow, we have compiled brief news capsules of Key happenings you have may have missed from May through October while you were away. We’ve also compiled some of the best Cops Corner entries and an “In Memoriam” section that honors those Key residents who have died.
And, of course, don’t miss the “Island Items” boxes that are sprinkled throughout the news section. They contain the news that seems to truly happen “only on Longboat.”
+ IPOC challenges code
Islandside Property Owners Coalition attorney Michael Furen had a 13-page administrative petition challenge drawn up and ready to be filed if the Town Commission approved zoning code amendments May 20 concerning the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s Islandside renovation-and-expansion project.
IPOC followed through on its promise after the amendments were approved in June and officially challenged the code changes.
+ Town fights relocation
The Longboat Key Town Commission vowed to oppose a plan by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to allow Mother Nature to bring Longboat Pass closer to the north end of the island.
The town has since worked out an agreement with the Corps of Engineers and Manatee County to dredge the pass’ authorized channel, which will alleviate further erosion concerns on the north end of the island.
+ Tax hike expected
Presented with an anticipated $800,000 shortfall in the 2010-11 fiscal-year budget and unfunded pension liability issues, the Longboat Key Town Commission resigned itself to the fact it would most likely be raising taxes at a May budget workshop.
+ IPOC funding questioned
A Sarasota attorney hired by Lighthouse Point resident John Saputo questioned the Islandside Property Owners Coalition’s (IPOC) limited-liability corporation and how the coalition is funded.
Attorney Steven Thompson told The Longboat Observer Lighthouse Point has incurred potential liability for the homeowner association and has exposed its members to potential assessments to cover any liability by joining IPOC and paying association funds for the support of its activities.
IPOC President Bob White denied the claims made by Thompson. To date, two of IPOC’s managing members have asked to be removed as managing members, citing liability concerns.
+ Chief requests more police
Longboat Key Police Chief Al Hogle pointed to Florida Department of Law Enforcement crime statistics to explain why he recommended the town hire back a patrol officer and a captain at a cost of $217,000.
Thefts from vehicles on Longboat Key rose 338.9% in 2009 and home burglaries rose 20%.
In total, the town saw a 104% increase in crime, or 88 more crime incidents in 2009 than the previous year.
The commission approved the two additional hires this summer.
+ Jaleski resigns
At-large Commissioner Gene Jaleski resigned from the Longboat Key Town Commission May 25, in the wake of an e-mail controversy in which he made negative remarks toward Longboat Key Public Interest Committee members and called former Mayor Ron Johnson “the most ineffective mayor in recent times.”
Jaleski stated in his resignation e-mail that he was unhappy in his capacity on the Town Commission for some time, was not going to seek re-election in March and realized that the reasons he ran for a commission seat “were unobtainable.”
Commissioner Phillip Younger was appointed to replace Jaleski for the remainder of the term, which expires in March.
+ Residents review town
The Town Commission agreed to form a subcommittee, at the suggestion of Commissioner Lynn Larson at a May budget workshop, of town residents that would review town operations.
Six residents were chosen this summer to review town departments and made their recommendations in November on how the departments can operate more efficiently.
+ Colony trustee appointed
A Tampa-based bankruptcy judge ruled that the cash-strapped Colony Beach & Tennis Resort would be run and operated by a U.S. trustee at a May 28 hearing.
The judge said William Maloney, the trustee, would make recommendations moving forward for the resort’s future.
+ Property values decline
Preliminary tax roll figures from Manatee and Sarasota counties showed that Longboat Key’s taxable values dropped an average of 9.68% Key-wide for an approximate $518,164,286 loss, marking the third year in a row taxable values dropped on the island.
+ Dead or alive?
The Longboat Key Town Commission approved an Islandside renovation-and-expansion project June 14 on first reading that Key Club Resort officials said they wouldn’t build.
In a 4-3 vote, the commission chose a plan drafted by its town attorney that called for eliminating 70 condominium units from the north side of Longboat Club Road. The units that were axed, club officials said, were needed to finance the project.
+ Water rates fall
The Longboat Key Town Commission agreed to lower water-and-wastewater rates for the second consecutive year at its June 17 regular workshop.
For the average town water account user, the proposed rate decrease represented a savings of $78.48 per year for a single-family home using an average of 10,000 gallons of water per month.
The rate decreases became effective Oct. 1.
+ Subcommittee skepticism
Town Manager Bruce St. Denis expressed frustration June 10 with a subcommittee that was formed to review the employees he oversees.
The subcommittee — which consists of Commissioners David Brenner and Lynn Larson and Longboat Key, Lido Key, St. Armands Key Chamber of Commerce President Tom Aposporos — was charged with recruiting town residents to review town departments and make recommendations on how better to improve operations.
Said Subcommittee Chairman Brenner: “This is not an excuse to see how many people we can fire, but nothing should be off the table because a thorough review needs to be done.”
+ Plaza goes under contract
Andrew Hlwya and Dawn diLorenzo, owners of Whitney Beach Plaza, confirmed in June they received an offer for the plaza.
The commercial short-sale price was not disclosed and the sale is still pending. Hlwya said he couldn’t afford the $33,000 per month mortgage for the plaza, and more than 75% of the plaza sits vacant. The plaza was listed for $3.5 million. Although the initial offer fell through, in late October, another potential buyer of the plaza, Brian Kenney, of Juliani Kenney Investment Capital, spoke to The Longboat Observer about his plans for the plaza, which include interest from a national coffee chain.
+ Town prepares for oil spill
The Town Commission told Town Manager Bruce St. Denis at a June 17 regular workshop that it was willing to do whatever it took to prevent oil from coming ashore from the leaking oilrig in the Gulf that exploded in April.
The town authorized its beach engineer, Coastal Planning & Engineering, to develop a $16,000 local response plan that supplemented the U.S. Coast Guard plans in the event beaches and waterways were impacted locally.
To date, no oil from the disaster has come ashore in any form.
+ Colony plans announced
The lender holding a mortgage on The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort property moved forward with foreclosure proceedings against Colony Chairman and owner Dr. Murray “Murf” Klauber.
Longboat Key resident David Siegal, one of the partners of Colony Lender LLC, told The Longboat Observer July 20 that he and his partner, Longboat Key businessman Randy Langley, were pursuing two avenues.
“At this point, we are pursuing a revitalization of The Colony, while simultaneously moving a foreclosure forward as quickly as the legal system will accommodate (in Sarasota County Clerk of the Circuit Court),” Siegal said.
+ IPOC challenges code
The Islandside Property Owners Coalition (IPOC), as expected, filed an administrative appeal July 14 that challenged code changes approved by the Town Commission in May.
The petition states “the amendments materially alter and change numerous provisions of the land development code governing the Gulf-planned development zoning district. IPOC, thus, has ‘associational standing’ to file and process this challenge to the amendments as being inconsistent with the plan.”
+ Vision Plan
During a Vision Plan Subcommittee meeting July 14, its members and the town attorney discussed how the Vision Plan is the catalyst for a bigger discussion: a broad review of the town’s Comprehensive Plan.
When Subcommittee Chairwoman Pat Zunz started a discussion about the island’s perceived saturation of commercially-zoned land, town attorney David Persson told the group it’s part of an overall discussion that will lead to what he hopes is a revision of the Comprehensive Plan.
Persson told those in attendance that the town’s Comprehensive Plan, which acts as a guide to what the town wants to be and look like, needs an overhaul.
+ Chapel signs tower lease
An agreement was reached with the Longboat Island Chapel to erect a 150-foot cellular tower on church property.
Longboat Island Chapel President Jared East and Secretary Hugh Joyner confirmed that the church signed a tower lease agreement July 26 for a five-year lease with Jimmy Eatrides, owner of Longboat Key-based Alpha-Omega Communications, and Tampa-based Ridan Industries II President Kevin Barile.
The lease includes four five-year option extensions.
The unipole stealth tower, if approved by the Town Commission, would sit just south of the chapel’s Lord’s Warehouse building on the east side of the church’s 4.5-acre property at 6200 Gulf of Mexico Drive.
The Planning and Zoning Board is expected to review the application in January.
+ IPOC challenges project
The Islandside Property Owners Coalition LLC, along with The Sanctuary at Longboat Key LLC and L’Ambiance at Longboat Key Club Condominium Association, filed its anticipated challenge to the Islandside renovation-and-expansion project July 30 in Sarasota County Clerk of the Circuit Court.
IPOC attorney Michael Furen filed a declaratory judgment, seeking a de novo hearing, which allows his client to challenge the ordinance approving the Islandside outline development plan amendment and claim it’s inconsistent with the town’s Comprehensive Plan.
In essence, IPOC asked for a new hearing that would require new testimony and evidence to be entered into the record for a Sarasota County Clerk of Circuit Court judge to review.
The hearing will most likely be scheduled some time next year.
+ Vision Plan debated
The debate raged Aug. 11 on how specific the town should be when referring to future revitalization of the island in town documents that shape the future of Longboat Key.
At the most recent Vision Plan Subcommittee meeting, Chairwoman Pat Zunz and subcommittee member George Symanski Jr. continued to be baffled that other subcommittee participants have an issue with putting statements in both
the Vision Plan and the town’s Comprehensive Plan that give developers specific examples on what the town would like to see happen to certain parcels in the future.
For instance, Zunz and Symanski believe the documents should include language that tells developers whether a hotel/and or a mixed-use commercial plaza would be a worthwhile endeavor for them to pursue for a parcel like Whitney Beach Plaza.
The subcommittee later reached a consensus to include the examples in the Vision Plan.
+ Colony president speaks
Colony Beach & Tennis Resort Association President Jay Yablon said he believed the majority of the resort’s 232-unit owners wanted to see the aging property rejuvenated in a way that preserves many of the qualities former resort owner Dr. Murray “Murf” Klauber created.
“The bottom line is all of the unit owners have to form a consensus from here on out,” Yablon said. “From what I have picked up on through my position as president, there is fairly wide spread agreement among existing owners that they like the basic look and feel of the Colony they have been familiar with for years.”
Yablon believed the widest, most positive consensus on any renovation plan, whether it involves renovating the existing complex or tearing it down and starting anew, involved a historic renovation of the 41-year-old resort.
+ Firefighters want audit
Seven months after demanding an estimated $100,000 audit of his pension, firefighter pension board Chairman Keith Tanner finally got his wish.
The board, which at the previous two meetings staved off Tanner’s demand, finally caved at its Aug. 25 quarterly meeting.
Firefighter/paramedic Frank Stoudt produced a list of 28 signatures — more than 90% of the department’s employees — from pension members who wanted the study to be performed.
A combination of underfunded pension liabilities, combined with contract negotiation tension, upset the firefighters, Stoudt said.
But the town’s pension attorney believes the fire pension board may have breached its fiduciary duty after requesting a forensic analysis of its pension be performed without soliciting bids from other companies.
The ruling by the attorney has the commission worried about the pension board signing a contract for the study.
+ Tax rate rises 25.8%
The town’s tax rate rose 25.8% Oct. 1, when the fiscal year 2010-11 began.
All but one of the seven members of the Longboat Key Town Commission recommended and passed on first reading a millage rate of 1.8872 mills, up 25.8% from the town’s previous 1.5 millage rate.
One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed valuation.
The new budget, including capital spending, totals $14,723,263, up $647,000, or 4.6%, from the current fiscal year.
The recommended budget was prepared based on a 9.3% island-wide reduction in property values.
+ Carman’s shoes to close
Carman’s Shoes announced plans to close its family-owned, three-story shoe-and-handbag store on St. Armands Circle, after 45 years of business, by the end of the year.
Owner Bill Carman said the conversion of hotel units to condominiums on Longboat Key over the past decade made business tougher.
+ Beach project approved
The state presented the town with a 10-year beach restoration permit Monday, Sept. 13 that allowed it to restore its beach on the north end of the island.
That means the town has permission to restore sand in the area any time it needs to for 10 years without having to ask for permission from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).
Town staff had been working to receive a permit from FDEP all year, which allows the town to rebuild the entire beach profile, and especially a 200-foot wide beach that used to exist from Broadway to North Shore Road.
The town has put aside $4.5 million in its upcoming 2010-11 fiscal-year budget for the north-end project, which is expected to take at least a month to complete.
+ Town hires fire chief
Town Manager Bruce St. Denis promoted interim Longboat Key Fire Rescue Chief Paul Dezzi to the official position of fire chief Sept. 21.
Dezzi has overseen the department in an interim position for the past four months, after former Fire Chief Rich Dickerson resigned in May.
Dezzi started his career as a Sarasota County firefighter/paramedic in 1984 and moved through the ranks there to assistant chief, where he supervised more than 500 employees. Dezzi completed fire and paramedic training at the Sarasota Technical Institute and has an associate’s degree in fire science.
+ Town holds hearing
The town is not offering a contract that involves spending money, while the firefighter union tried to show the town is not in dire financial shape.
Town officials and the fire rescue union, presented their cases during an impasse hearing Sept. 17 at Town Hall.
The fire department’s current contract expired May 31, which means the department continues to operate at status quo on a month-to-month basis until a new contract is reached.
Because impasse has been declared, a special magistrate is now being called upon to review proposals presented by both sides and make a decision that’s not legally binding.
+ Comp Plan changes
The Longboat Key Town Commission agreed that changes are needed to its Comprehensive Plan, which acts as a roadmap for the town’s future.
Town attorney David Persson told commissioners that a major overhaul is not necessary.
“I am looking for a major discussion but not a major revision,” Persson said. “The elements are still there in the plan, but they just need more clarification.”
Public hearings will be held next year as the Planning and Zoning Board and Town Commission consider changes.
+ Key construction begins
Two construction projects started almost simultaneously in early October.
A Gulf of Mexico Drive repaving project that was originally scheduled for August began Oct. 4, and a brick paver crosswalk construction project in the vicinity of St. Armands Circle began Oct. 3.
Both projects, however, continue to be performed during evening hours.
Gulf of Mexico Drive, from the Sarasota County-Manatee County line on Longboat Key to the New Pass Bridge, was also repaved.
+ Town ratifies contract
The Longboat Key Town Commission ratified a three-year contract with its police department at its regular meeting Oct. 4.
The three-year deal, which officially began Oct. 1, only gives the officers raises and cost-of-living allowances if other town employees receive them and keeps their current wages intact. And the town is taking vacation time and sick time out of an officer’s final compensation package for purposes of calculating a final pension payout.
The town will also keep the current pension the same for officers currently on duty.
But, in return, the town reserved the right to modify the pension plan for new police officers.
+ DCA makes code ruling
The state’s Department of Community Affairs (DCA) ruled Oct. 20 that an ordinance amending parts of Longboat Key’s code is both consistent and inconsistent.
If the ruling holds up, it would mean that non-residential uses are not allowed under the Comprehensive Plan in a Gulf-planned development, such as the Longboat Key Club and Resort.
Key Club attorney John Patterson, however, was not worried with the ruling and said the town could easily clarify the position of its Comprehensive Plan.
“Everything we are proposing for this project is tourism or residential,” Patterson said. “We believe the DCA misinterpreted the open-endedness of a Comprehensive Plan it approved for the town and the town will defend its position.”
+ Bayfront Park talks begin
For the first time since the Bayfront Park concept plan was discussed at a May 2009 workshop, the town is addressing the bureaucratic and land-zoning issues that exist before the town can discuss how to fund the project.
And at its Oct. 21 regular workshop, the commission moved a resolution forward to its November regular meeting that will eventually amend the future land uses of Sarasota County and town-owned lands adjacent to Bayfront Park.