We’ve seen the car carriers.
We’ve felt the slightest hint of an early fall breeze.
We’ve noticed the growing happy-hour crowds at our favorite Key restaurants and bars.
It can all mean only one thing: You’re ba-ack!
Here’s one thing we’ve learned from sticking around Longboat in recent summers: The slow days of summer are a thing of the past.
The good news is, we braved the 90-plus degree temperatures, the mosquitoes and the wrath of Tropical Storm Debby to report the news for those of you who stayed in town and those who had other places to be. And even if you were gallivanting across the globe, you could still read the news as it unfolded at YourObserver.com.
But if you took a vacation from the news or need a refresher course, you’re in luck. We’ve summarized our biggest and best stories to catch you up to speed.
There’s no pop quiz. It’s our way of saying: Welcome back.
+ Klauber, Adams settle
Longtime Colony Beach & Tennis Resort Dr. Murray “Murf” Klauber confirmed that he had reached a settlement through mediation with W. Andrew “Andy” Adams, whose Breakpointe I LLC was foreclosing on overdue bank loans for Klauber’s residential unit and beachfront Vagabond resort unit.
The terms of the settlement were confidential.
+ Consultant suggests DAS
TE Connectivity Networks Inc. consultant Scott Wierson told the Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board that he would recommend a distributed antenna solution (DAS) network to improve wireless communications on the north end.
The recommendation was, for many, a long awaited answer, following TE Connectivity’s study of island-wide wireless communications.
Jim Eatrides, of Alpha Omega Communications, and Kevin Barile, of Ridan Industries II, who strategically placed their application for a 150-foot cellular tower on hold to allow the town to make adjustments to its telecommunications policies, disputed Wierson’s conclusion and returned to the Commission in June with Tom Giacomo, of Verizon, who described a tower as “the most viable solution.”
+ Pension freeze proposed
Town Manager David Bullock proposed freezing the town’s firefighter and general- employee pension plans and transitioning employees to defined-contribution 401(a) accounts.
The plan would allow vested employees to receive the benefits they’ve earned and wouldn’t affect retirees or employees who retire before the freeze date. Employees would contribute 3% of their pay, while the town would contribute 10% and then match additional employee contributions dollar-for-dollar up to 13%.
Bullock has not formally proposed changes to the police plan because contract negotiations with the police union will not begin until spring of 2013.
+ Algae surfaces on Key
It wasn’t red tide, and it wasn’t BP oil.
But patches of brown gunk that surfaced along local waters sent rumors floating across the island.
The sticky, brown gunk was a harmless algae that can resemble oil and often appears when Gulf temperatures get warmer. As expected, it went away within approximately one week.
+ Colony agreement ends
The Colony Beach & Tennis Association board voted unanimously May 14, to terminate its agreement with Club Holdings Ventures LLC after the Broomfield, Colo.-based company expressed interest in ending the relationship.
Association Board President Jay Yablon said at the time that Club Holdings officials worried that they could not keep investors interested in a project “with so much dysfunction.”
+ Meyer is new PZ&B director
Robin Meyer assumed the role of Longboat Key Planning Zoning & Building Director May 14.
Meyer, 61, most recently served as St. Lucie County assistant director of growth/management/building and code regulation manager and was chosen from a pool of 62 candidates. He earns an annual salary of $93,000 and oversees a staff of 10.
+ Helicopter lands beach
A helicopter en route to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport made an emergency landing May 25, on Longboat Key’s Gulfside beach near the 4000 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive.
Police said that pilot Joseph Leach’s Bell helicopter developed engine problems during the flight. The three adult passengers on board were not injured.
+ Hilton plans move forward
Delray Beach-based Ocean Properties Ltd. officials confirmed that they will move forward to redevelop the company’s Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort.
The project will likely involve tearing down most of the property’s existing structures, with the exception of the northern-most building, and the addition of 80 to 85 rooms.
The company plans to file an application in December and begin construction in May, closing the resort for nine to 12 months. If plans are approved, the Hilton would become the first property to receive additional units from a pool of 250 tourism units available Key-wide approved by voters in a 2008 referenda vote.
+ Plaza overlay passes
The Longboat Key Town Commission voted unanimously in a special meeting June 24, to approve a Comprehensive Plan amendment allowing for an overlay involving several properties in the Whitney Beach area.
The approval came after residents, many from the Longbeach Village packed Town Hall during the commission’s May and June meetings to oppose the overlay, many citing language that would allow for maximum heights of 55 feet.
The amendment approved by the commission removed height references, meaning that affected property would be limited to the 40 feet allowed by their underlying zoning.
The overlay would allow a developer to seek flexibility to seek a mix of uses but without requiring a developer to take advantage of it.
+ Bullock contract OK’d
The Longboat Key Town Commission officially removed the word “interim” from Town Manager Dave Bullock’s title when it authorized Town Attorney David Persson to draw up a contract allowing for a three-year extension of his contract, followed by the option for a subsequent three-year renewal.
The extension increased Bullock’s maximum allowable severance to 20 weeks’ salary from the previous 30 days’ pay. Bullock’s salary of $180,000 annually did not change in the contract.
+ Lenobel resigns from commission
Commissioner Hal Lenobel resigned from the Longboat Key Town Commission, citing illness and the recent death of his wife of 62 years, Hazel.
Lenobel, a retired dentist, served for 12-and-a-half years on the commission, including three years as mayor. His fellow commissioners praised him as a man of integrity who never waivered from his opinions even if they were unpopular.
“I’d put him in the Longboat Key Hall of Fame,” Mayor Jim Brown said.
+ Terry Gans becomes commissioner
Grand Bay resident Terry Gans became the newest Longboat Key Town commissioner, after the commission appointed him to fill the at-large seat vacated by Hal Lenobel.
Gans was one of eight residents to express interest in the seat.
Former Commissioners Randy Clair, Gene Jaleski and Woody Wolverton, current Planning and Zoning Board members Jack Daly and Len Garner, recent District 3 challenger Ray Rajewski and fifth-generation Key resident Mark Wickersham submitted resumes to the town to ask for consideration.
Although Gans initially planned to serve on an interim basis, he has since qualified to run for the seat in March 2013, to complete the remainder Lenobel’s one year term.
+ Seaweed washes up on Key beaches
In late July and August, Tropical Storm Debby’s effects were still surfacing on the Key in the form of clumps of seaweed that lined local shorelines.
Seaweed is always floating in the Gulf of Mexico, but the storm-related wave and wind action most likely pushed it to shore.
The town rakes seaweed from its shores in the event of red tide or fish kills, but does not rake the beaches when the seaweed is harmless, like that which surfaced on local shores.
+ CVS opens one month early
The new CVS opened Aug. 5, one month ahead of schedule.
The drug store is difficult to spot from Gulf of Mexico Drive because of a vegetation buffer that Publix, which owns the site, agreed to put between the shopping center and Gulf of Mexico Drive.
The new store offers enhanced selections of many grocery items, with produce, sliced meats and cheeses, pre-made sandwiches and more wine and beer choices. It also features a drive-thru pharmacy. CVS is open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week — not 24 hours, as the original application stated would be a possibility.
Demolition of the old CVS began the week after the new store opened.
+ St. Armands merchants share concerns
St. Armands Circle merchants shared their concerns about parking enforcement with Sarasota Mayor Suzanne Atwell and Sarasota Parking Manager Mark Lyons Aug. 14 during a St. Armands Circle Association board meeting.
Their ongoing complaints stem from a March Sarasota City Commission vote to make parking enforcement uniform in downtown, St. Armands Circle and Hillview’s Southside Village after agreeing to bag downtown parking meters.
As a result, parking staff shifted their approach from a broader focus to one that honed in more closely on areas like the Circle, upping enforcement hours to 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., six days a week.
+ Crash kills Quik-N-EZ Mart employee
Longboat Key Quik-N-EZ Mart employee Karen Porter, 47, died from internal injuries on Aug. 14, one week after she was struck by a Nissan pickup truck and pinned against the store’s wall.
According to a crash report, the truck’s driver, Alfredo Loza, who works at Pattigeorge’s restaurant, told police that his brakes had been “acting weird earlier,” but he didn’t believe the problem to be serious.
Loza was charged with careless driving.
+ Key Club, Ocean Properties partner
The Delray Beach-based Ocean Properties Ltd. announced plans for a joint venture with the Longboat Key Club and Resort and Loeb Partners Realty LLC for all of the resort’s assets.
In announcing the partnership Aug. 20, Ocean Properties officials said that if consummated after an unspecified due-diligence period, the company would become an equity partner in Key Club Associates, L.P., the entity that controls the Key Club but declined to comment about whether the equity stake was a majority stake or a 50/50 stake in the resort.
Less than two months later, Loeb Partners Realty announced the sale of the Key Club to Ocean Properties for an undisclosed price.
+ Hurricane Isaac spares Key
First responders began prepping for Hurricane Isaac’s impacts, after forecasts called for the storm passing 100 to 150 miles west of Longboat Key Aug. 27.
But Aug. 26, the storm’s path shifted further west than anticipated, removing any threat to the Key.
Officials noted that just two months after Tropical Storm Debby’s impact, both residents and town staffers were better prepared. In fact, the town ran out of sandbags because so many residents sought them for storm impacts.
+ Appeals court upholds Key Club writ
The 2nd District Court of Appeal upheld Judge Charles E. Roberts’ ruling that granted a writ of certiorari to the Islandside Property Owners Coalition (IPOC) and L’Ambiance and Sanctuary condominium associations in their challenge of the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s proposed $400 million Islandside project.
A panel of three judges rejected the town’s and Key Club’s arguments that the lower court improperly reweighed evidence and improperly interpreted the town’s code in a 12-page ruling.
The ruling essentially killed the Islandside project, although the Key Club could file a new application under the town codes that have been modified since the project’s June 2010 approval.
+ Colony Association names partners
The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort Association board voted Aug. 29, to enter into a nonbinding memorandum of understanding with longtime unit owner Andy Adams’ BreakPointe LLC and the Naples-based Coral Hospitality LLC.
According to the agreement approved, BreakPointe would serve as developer and recommend a plan to the Association, while Coral Hospitality would take the role of property/resort manager and technical developer, operating under BreakPointe.
+ Cumming appointed police chief
Town Manager Dave Bullock announced Acting Police Chief Pete Cumming would take on the top-cop role permanently.
Bullock appointed Cumming acting police chief in May, following the sudden death of Police Chief Al Hogle.
Cumming began his career in law-enforcement in patrol with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office in 1980 and later became a detective, then a corporal, then an undercover narcotics smuggling agent for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). In the mid-1990s, he was also sworn in as a U.S. Deputy Marshall for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Violent Crime Task Force, before heading to FDLE’s Fort Myers Regional Operation Center, where he opened a fictitious pawnshop to create an outlet for stolen goods.
Cumming joined the Longboat Key department as a captain in April 2008.
+ Circle Books closes
The last chapter for Circle Books came Sept. 19, when the St. Armands bookstore closed after 13 years.
Owner Eric Lamboley said that the business became financially unfeasible in recent years because of online sales and the inability of independent booksellers to compete with large chains on pricing.
+ Colony mid-rise ‘unsafe’
Licensed engineering firm ProNet Group Inc. labeled the mid-rise building that’s been the home of longtime Colony owner Dr. Murray “Murf” Klauber for almost 40 years “potentially hazardous and unsafe.”
Citizens Property Insurance had hired the company to inspect the building. The report determined that the building’s floor-framing system no longer supported its intended design load and that the condition was associated with long-term rain water/moisture migration.
Town officials posted warning signs around the building and banned people from entering it without town staff approval.
+ Sand structures OK’d
With sand disappearing at an alarming rate, the Longboat Key Town Commission unanimously agreed to move forward with a $6.2 million sand-and-structures program at a Sept. 24 workshop.
The project would place two permeable, adjustable-type groins near North Shore Road on town property and a non-adjustable groin that would stick out into Longboat Pass from Greer Island, aka Beer Can Island, to keep sand from flowing north into the channel and into Sarasota Bay.
If the town obtains permits by early 2013, groin construction could begin next spring.
+ Commission approves budget
Read their lips: No new taxes.
The Longboat Key town commissioners approved a 2012-13 fiscal year budget Sept. 24 that’s flat compared to the previous year’s budget, and as expected, included no tax increases.
Based on the town’s current millage rate of 1.8872 mills, the town will generate $8,362,000 in ad valorem revenues, or $137,000 less when compared to a year ago.
Longboat Key commissioners are granting a one-year reprieve to residents who were bracing for tax assessments regarding the town’s upcoming beach project.
Instead of assessing Key taxpayers for a $16 million sand-and-structure beach project starting this year, the town intends to assess taxpayers next summer.
+ Commission grants extension
The Longboat Key Town Commission isn’t ruling out the possibility of pulling the plug on the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort’s grandfathered tourism units.
The commission replaced a three-year extension of the deadline for re-opening the property sought by the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort Association and replaced it with a one-year extension that terminates Dec. 31, 2013. Commissioners offered a three-year extension to the owner of the property that can redevelop the entire 18-acre property, not just the 15 acres that the Association currently controls.
During the Oct. 1 hearing, Charles Bartlett, attorney for longtime Colony owner Dr. Murray “Murf” Klauber confirmed that settlement discussions had ceased among the Colony interests after the commission expressed a willingness to extend the deadline the month before.
+ Employees seek union vote
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees sent Town Manager Dave Bullock a letter stating that 16 out of the town’s 42 eligible general employees have signed union interest statements.
The Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) will make a decision on the proposed union in the near future.
The interest in unionization comes amid concerns about a proposal to freeze employee pension plans and pay future benefits into 401(a) accounts. General employees have expressed concerns that they, unlike police and firefighters, don’t have representation.
+ Judge awards $20 million
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge K. Rodney May recommended leaving control of the shuttered Colony Beach & Tennis Resort with its unit owners and their Association and awarded more than $20 million in damages to the Colony Partnership, which includes longtime Colony owner Dr. Murray “Murf” Klauber and the unit owners.
The award was one of two options for damage scenarios U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday directed May to choose between in October 2011. The alternative scenario was a $7,751,470 damage award that would have also restored the Partnership that allowed Klauber to control the units.
The Association will appeal the decision to the Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeal, which could lead to another two years of court hearings, unless the parties reach a settlement.
+ Ocean Properties buys club
Ocean Properties Ltd., of Delray Beach, is the new owner of the Longboat Key Club and Resort.
Key Club Associates, LP, the entity that controls the Key Club announced Oct. 16 that it had reached an agreement with Ocean Properties for the outright acquisition of the entire club and its assets from Loeb Partners Realty for an undisclosed price.
Ocean Properties Vice President Andy Berger and Loeb Partners Realty Vice President Adam Tegge declined to offer details on the sale and what it means for the resort’s future and the Islandside renovation-and-expansion project, at the time of the sale.
Key Club General Manager Michael Welly and about a dozen staffers were terminated a week before the sale’s Nov. 1 closing.
Welly, 66, told the Longboat Observer that he will move to the Los Angeles area temporarily by the end of the year before determining his next career steps.
+ Aposporos announces departure
Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce President Tom Aposporos announced that he will resign from his position by the end of the year.
Aposporos, who is also a real-estate broker for J Wood Realty, plans to run for the Anna Maria City Commission. He became the chamber’s acting president in February 2009 before taking on the role officially four months later.
+ Jury awards Key resident $2.3 million
A Manatee County jury awarded Longboat Key resident Richard Carrier $2.3 million for injuries stemming from a bicycle accident.
The crash occurred in March 2010, when Edward O’Connell, 82, of Rome, N.Y., struck Carrier, 53, as he rode his bicycle in the 6700 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive.
After a five-day trial, the jury found that Carrier sustained permanent injuries to his head, eye, neck, shoulder and lower back.
+ Commission puts decision on hold
The Longboat Key Town Commission directed town staff to hire a consultant to review the town’s telecommunications policies and present recommendations for the town’s Comprehensive Plans and codes at an Oct. 15 workshop.
The town attorney’s office recommended that the commission consider amending its zoning code to allow for cellular towers over 30 feet and establish a reasonable maximum height for the towers, warning commissioners that without changes, the town’s policies could be legally interpreted as a ban on cell towers.
Town Manager Dave Bullock told the commission that representatives of cellular companies have all said it would be impossible to build a tower on the island at less than 110 feet.
+ Key couple proposes SRQ airline
Longboat Key residents Steve and Hannah Miller confirmed that they are in the concept stage of bringing a Sarasota-based airlines called Sunrise Airlines of Sarasota to the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.
Steve Miller proposes an airline utilizing Boeing 737-400 planes that would offer 24 non-stop destinations in the United States and Canada and could be up and running within 12 months. He believes that the airline could be running within 12 months, beginning with eight non-stop flights in its first year.
+ Chief Hogle dies in motorcycle crash
Longboat Key Police Chief Albert “Al” Hogle died May 14 in a motorcycle accident.
Hogle, 63, was riding with friends on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, when he was ejected from his motorcycle after striking a tree.
Hundreds of people, including many uniformed law-enforcement officers from throughout Southwest Florida, attended his funeral May 24, during which he was eulogized as a family man and mentor to other law-enforcement officials.
Hogle’s beloved yellow Camaro ZL1 led the funeral procession to Sarasota National Cemetery, where he was buried with a 21-gun salute.
+ Town approves Tennis Center alcohol sales
The Longboat Key Town Commission reached consensus to move forward a plan allowing for wine and beer sales at the Longboat Key Public Tennis Center during a May 24 workshop.
The commission considered a similar proposal in March 2011, but rejected it because of code enforcement issues and concerns from at least one business owner that it would interfere with business.
Commissioners reached consensus at the May workshop after Tennis Center Manager Kay Thayer assured that most patrons would only drink a beverage or two while watching matches and that staff and volunteers would not allow people to drink to the point of intoxication.
+ Debby takes Longboat by storm
Tropical Storm Debby made a surprise appearance from June 23 through June 28, on Longboat Key, bringing 10 inches of rain and flooding to 51 streets on the island.
It was the Key’s first major storm impact since Tropical Storm Alberto struck in 2006.
Debby’s impacts ranged from minor inconveniences to substantial damages.
The storm blew away an estimated 150,000 cubic yards of sand on the Key, depositing much of it on Beer Can Island, aka Greer Island; flooded Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub and Pattigeorge’s, along with many homes and destroyed approximately 950 turtle nests, along with the world’s largest cotton plant at Casa Del Mar.
A string of burglaries, mostly involving unlocked cars and homes in the Longbeach Village, also occurred during Tropical Storm Debby, suggesting that the culprit took advantage of the weather and targeted vulnerable property.