Sarasota County Clerk of the 12th Circuit Court Judge Lee Haworth heard arguments Thursday afternoon in a hearing scheduled to review the Islandside Property Owners Coalition’s challenge of the town of Longboat Key’s code changes.
The code changes, made in part to make the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s Islandside renovation-and-expansion project clearer under town codes, are still being challenged even though the development order for the most recent application of the project was quashed last month by an appeals court.
The three-hour hearing allowed both IPOC attorney Robert Lincoln and town assistant attorney Kelly Fernandez to make arguments to Haworth, who won’t make a ruling until both sides submit closing arguments written in the form of final rulings to his office by Oct. 1 for his review.
Lincoln spent more than an hour arguing his client’s eight challenges to the town’s zoning code changes. One of Lincoln’s main arguments focused on the use of tourism units at Islandside and whether or not the town can count density in Islandside using both residential and tourism units.
“We contend that tourism uses other than what was grandfathered in at Inn on the Beach were not allowed in the gulf-planned development (Islandside) under the Comprehensive Plan,” Lincoln said. “We also contend the town needs to hold a referendum before it can allow tourism uses like it has done in the past.”
Fernandez, meanwhile, said the town has always consistently viewed the use of density in Islandside while using both residential and tourism units.
“The Comp Plan, admittedly, is not the deacon of clarity and arguably has some inconsistencies,” Fernandez said. “But there has been consistency with encompassing both dwelling (residential) and tourism units in the GPD (Islandside).”
Fernandez also disputed Lincoln’s claim that the Longboat Key Town Commission catered specifically to the Key Club when it made the code changes and approved the project.
“Commissioners don’t have the willy-nilly authority to do whatever they like,” Fernandez said. “Applicable criteria has to be met first in a GPD, which encourages flexibility to begin with.”
Haworth told both sides he will need additional time to review the materials before reviewing the written closing arguments both sides are being asked to submit, using citations and showing sections of case law to support their cases. Haworth also said he is reserving the right to call another hearing if he has additional questions.
For more information, pick up a copy of Thursday’s Sept. 27 Longboat Observer.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].