Town Manager Dave Bullock is doing whatever it takes to get the Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort project back on track.
Ocean Properties Ltd. submitted pre-application documents to the town’s Planning, Zoning and Building Department in November for a redevelopment of the 102-rooms at the existing Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort and the addition of 85 more rooms that would be built in a new guest tower.
But the project and any other applications submitted to Town Hall are on hold after a Sarasota Clerk of the Circuit Court judge issued a judgment in November that went against the town and essentially froze pending and future redevelopment applications.
The judge favored the Islandside Property Owners Coalition, which challenged the town’s code changes that gave commissioners more flexibility when approving projects.
More importantly, until changes are made to the town’s codes and Comprehensive Plan, the town can’t use an outline development process to distribute a pool of 250 tourism units already approved for future distribution by Key voters.
At its regular meeting Monday, Jan. 7, the Longboat Key Town Commission approved a $23,000 budget request by Bullock for the use of Spikowski Planning Associates to provide consulting services for short-term changes to the town code. The commission also approved a $100,000 budget transfer for the use of a future planning consultant to come up with a process and strategy to make long-term code changes.
When questioned why two consultants were needed, Bullock explained that Spikowski Planning Associates is charged with coming up with a way for the town to make changes more swiftly to allow the Hilton project to be reviewed while the longer code and Comp Plan changes are made over a 12-to-24-month period.
“Right now the town can’t process applications and we are frozen in our ability to respond to applications,” Bullock said. “This work is geared toward an intelligent look at the code and trying to craft amendments to allow these types of applications (the Hilton project) to be reviewed and processed while we undergo the long-term planning effort.”
Bullock said he expects a draft from Spikowski Planning Associates in the coming weeks that might shed light on how the town can get the Hilton project back on track and not halt future redevelopment applications in the wake of the judge’s order.
“We are all aware there are applications out there or those that might be coming,” Bullock said. “We are looking to review the current code, modify it and allow some applications to be reviewed by the commission sooner rather than later.”
At the commission’s Tuesday, Jan. 22 regular workshop, commissioners will also hear a report from Bullock about two consultants being considered to head up the long-range code change process.