The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort has less than a year to transform its property into a tourism destination again or the property faces the possibility of losing more than half of its 237 units.
In a letter sent to Colony Beach & Tennis Resort Association President Jay Yablon dated Oct. 22, Planning, Zoning and Building Director Monica Simpson points to sections of the town code that reveal the resort cannot lay dormant for more than a year, or it will be considered abandoned.
The resort contains 237 tourism units on 18 acres. But, because the hotel and resort buildings were built before the town created its tourism resort-commercial classification, which only allows for six tourism units per acre, 129 of the resort’s 237 units are considered grandfathered, or legally non-conforming.
And, a section of the town code that is laid out for Yablon in Simpson’s letter reads: “A nonconforming use not used for a period of one year of the change of use to a more restricted or conforming use for any period of time shall be considered an abandonment thereof and the nonconforming use shall not thereafter be revived.”
Translation: Start using the property for tourism again or approximately 129 grandfathered tourism units will disappear.
The town is still waiting to hear back from Yablon on what he believes the resort’s abandonment deadline date is. Yablon told The Longboat Observer he believes Aug. 15, 2011, will be the deadline imposed on the association for using the property again. That’s because the Colony officially closed on that date all of its hotel/resort operations after the resort’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization was converted to a Chapter 7 liquidation.
Wrote Simpson: “The town attorney and I have determined that since this is a unified site, and not individual residential units, the date from which abandonment would be calculated would be the last day the property was used as a hotel.”
When asked about the decision, Town Manager Bruce St. Denis said: “The town’s major interest is the long-term vitality of The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort as a tourism destination. We are trying to give the owners the time they need to get it running again.”
Yablon, meanwhile, said the deadline does not come as a surprise.
“We actually knew there was a possibility we could lose our tourism status this month, because that’s when many of the tourism units were closed and never re-opened,” Yablon said. “We have had ongoing discussions with the town and have been told by the town officials that the last thing they want to see happen is the property losing its tourism density. They are doing everything they can to help us and we appreciate that.”
Yablon told The Longboat Observer he is confident the resort will be up and running in some form before the August deadline.
“It won’t be abandoned,” Yablon said. “It’s our goal to keep this a tourism property.”
Yablon said the board of directors hired Toronto-based Horwath HTL (Hotel, Tourism and Leisure) and its principal, Joel Rosen, to act as a strategic consultant for long-range planning for the resort.
According to an Oct. 22 e-mail sent to unit owners announcing the decision, Rosen will “operate at arm’s-length from the eventual outcome, having absolutely no overt or covert interest in the actual decisions ultimately made by the owners.”
Rosen, Yablon said in his e-mail, will have an opinion in business decisions moving forward, act as a counselor in renovation decisions and help select the right renovation plan.
A small PowerPoint presentation listed as an attachment in Yablon’s e-mail shows that a complete renovation plan could take three to five years to complete overall.
But the abandonment deadline is far from the only issue that Colony owners face.
In Simpson’s letter, she also states that, for zoning purposes, the Colony “is considered to be one unified development despite its form of ownership.”
“We understand that there are various developers having separate ownership that provide some or all of the required amenities for the resort,” Simpson wrote. “I am not aware of a way that redevelopment of any portion of the property can be considered in isolation or without the authorization of the remaining property owners.”
Simpson also states that zoning issues need to be resolved before occupancy can be granted for the units. One of the most pressing zoning issues is: Will there be any recreational amenities available for guests of a tourism unit because the owners don’t own the tennis courts, walking trails or pool area?
Yablon said the redevelopment issues don’t pose a problem for unit owners.
“This letter gives us an opportunity to stay focused on the big picture and keep the horses in front of the carts as we move forward,” Yablon said. “This identifies in clear terms the problems we and the town will be constructively working to solve together.”
Simpson told The Longboat Observer her department will work with the unit owners to help solve the issues that stand in the way of redevelopment.
“The last thing we want is for them to fail as a development,” Simpson said. “But they do have a tough road ahead of them.”
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].