Then: Dave Bullock was two months into the job of interim town manager at the start of 2012. He had survived his first two Longboat Key Town Commission meetings and as of Jan. 3, 2012, had met with 66 citizens. The Town Commission had a decision to make by Sept. 15, 2012, when Bullock’s one-year contract would expire: Renew the contract or launch a search for Longboat Key’s next town manager.
Now: The word “interim” was officially removed from Bullock’s title in July, when commissioners approved a three-year extension of the contract with an option to renew for another three years at the end. The extension didn’t change Bullock’s compensation but allows for 20 weeks’ severance pay instead of the previous 30-day maximum.
New Planning, Zoning and Building director
Then: Wanted: someone “collaborative, diplomatic, a team player, highly energetic, affable, assertive.”
Although it may not have been a Match.com ad, the town was seeking the right match for its Planning, Zoning and Building director position through an advertisement at the start of the new year, following the resignation of Monica Simpson.
Now: Robin Meyer began the job of PZ&B director in May 2012, after the town hired him at a $93,000 annual salary from a pool of 62 candidates who wanted the job. Meyer most recently served as St. Lucie County assistant director of growth/management/building and code regulation manager.
The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort
Then: U.S District Judge Steven D. Merryday had reversed key rulings made by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge K. Rodney May that ultimately gave unit owners control of their units.
Undeterred, the Colony Beach & Tennis Association, which represents owners of 232 of the resort’s 237 owners, vowed to continue with plans to redevelop the resort in partnership with Club Holdings Ventures LLC.
The Association also planned to go before the commission in 2012 to seek an extension of a Dec. 31, 2012, deadline for re-opening the resort, without which it faced losing approximately two-thirds of the property’s tourism units.
Now: The Association and Club Holdings chose to terminate their relationship in May, in part because of Club Holdings’ concerns about the extent of legal issues. The Association subsequently entered into an agreement with Coral Hospitality and longtime unit owner Andy Adams’ BreakPointe LLC.
May chose a damages award for the Partnership that could amount to about $23 million, while leaving control of units with unit owners; the Association has vowed to appeal.
The commission ultimately agreed to extend the deadline for re-opening the resort, but only by one year, instead of the three years unit owners wanted.
Meanwhile, the property has continued to deteriorate, drawing complaints from neighbors and attention of town code-enforcement and building officials. An agreement was also reached to maintain the property and upgrade its appearance while it sits vacant.
Longboat Key Club and Resort
Then: Judge Charles E. Roberts ruled in favor of the Islandside Property Owners Coalition and L’Ambiance and Sanctuary condominium associations Dec. 29, 2011, in their challenge of the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s proposed $400 million Islandside redevelopment plan that the Longboat Key Town Commission approved in June 2010.
Now: The 2nd District Court of Appeal upheld Roberts’ ruling in August, effectively quashing the Key Club’s application.
In October, after the Delray Beach-based Ocean Properties Ltd. announced plans to buy the resort, town officials confirmed that the application had been put on hold.
Sarasota 12th Circuit Court Judge Lee Haworth ruled in November in favor of IPOC in its challenge of town code changes that were meant to make the Islandside project clearer under town codes.
The town will take on a major review of its code and Comprehensive Plan with a planning consultant in early 2013; the review will include community meetings to gauge how the island’s residents want to face future redevelopment challenges through town codes.
In the short-term, however, applicants could face difficulty in seeking to redevelop.
Vice Mayor David Brenner told the Longboat Observer after Haworth’s ruling that, although the judgment is “disappointing,” it will give Ocean Properties “time to revisit in depth what the project was about before submitting something that won’t be an issue in the future.”
Dogs: Longboat beach access?
Then: A dog beach feasibility committee formed to explore issues surrounding dog beach access, including health, safety and wildlife impacts, with plans to report back to the Longboat Key Town Commission at a later date.
Now: Expect to hear both sides barking back and forth about the issue at Longboat Key Town Hall.
Laurin Goldner, chairwoman of the committee that has since been named the LBK-9 Coalition, presented the report to the commission in December. The commission will discuss the report at a future workshop, most likely in February.
Then: Alpha-Omega Communications LLC and Ridan Industries II had agreed to put its application to build a 150-foot cellular tower on the Longboat Island Chapel property on hold. The town was about to begin a study of island-wide telecommunications.
Now: TE Connectivity completed its telecommunications study in April. Representatives of TE Connectivity found that a distributed antenna system (DAS) network would provide a better solution for the island’s communications issues, a finding that Alpha-Omega Communications LLC and Ridan Industries II have contested; they argue that the DAS network would require more nodes and money than depicted in the report and that the visual impact wasn’t shown to scale.
Currently, there is no active cell-tower application on file with the town, because Ridan Industries II and Alpha-Omega Communications’ application remains on hold as part of a strategic decision to allow the town to make changes to its telecommunications ordinance and amend its Comprehensive Plan.
Then: The Planning and Zoning Board had recommended the site plan and three outline development plans in December 2011, and the Longboat Key Town Commission plans called for a new CVS by October 2012, a new Publix by Christmas and a new shopping area.
Now: On Longboat Key, it’s rare that you can say: “Mission accomplished.”
But Publix officials can.
Publix closed its old store April 7, 2012, demolished it and began building a new store. The old CVS remained open as the new store was built.
CVS opened in August, one month ahead of schedule.
Publix opened its new 49,533-square-foot store Dec. 13 to a crowd that gathered a half-hour before its opening. The supermarket has a variety of special features including indoor and outdoor seating with free Wi-Fi, salad bar, hot bar, Pacific wok station, an event-planning center and many enhanced departments.
Then: Discussions about a proposed community center at Bayfront Park Recreation Center were planned for 2012. The commission had approved the $452,500 purchase of a .71-acre parcel adjacent to the park that could enhance the community-center concept, and the possibility of taking the question to voters via a referendum question loomed.
Now: Suffice it to say that discussions about a community center happened in 2012. There were two community meetings, multiple discussions at commission meetings and workshops and a planned subcommittee that never met because commissioners decided that the group’s mission of compiling information about programs that go on throughout the Key was a task best left to town staff.
In October, Town Manager Dave Bullock agreed to hold a discussion about a community center and its costs while continuing to poll people about what kinds of programming they would like at such a facility.
Then: Dr. Pamela Letts, of the Centre Shops Family Practice and Urgent Care, had spoken about the difficulties of practicing medicine in a seasonal community such as Longboat Key during 2011 and had formed the Longboat Key Healthcare Committee to explore alternative non-profit models for providing services on Longboat Key.
The committee was working with another group, the Bay Isles Health Care Committee, established by resident Joe Curl, to explore partnering with Sarasota Memorial Hospital to create a satellite clinic on the island.
Now: Letts had no update for the Longboat Observer about her practice. And Longboat Key doesn’t appear to be any closer to partnering with Sarasota Memorial Hospital to create a satellite clinic.
There is continuing discussion of other options, such as the possibility of a Community Foundation of Longboat Key, which could generate funding for a future clinic.
Then: The town’s pension costs made up more than 15% of its total budget in the 2011-12 year, with the unfunded liability for the town’s three plans totaling more than $26 million.
Town Manager Dave Bullock was looking at funding options but emphasized:
“We’re going to meet the obligations that we have. There’s no other choice. It’s the law.”
Now: In May 2012, Bullock proposed the town’s pension plans and transitioning employees to defined-benefit 401(a) plans in which employees would receive a town match of up to 13%. Current employees and retirees would be allowed to keep their vested benefits, as required by law.
A contract between the town and its firefighters in which the current plan would be frozen and all current and future firefighters would participate in the Florida Retirement System pension plan, with the town matching employee contributions up to 13%, is tentative.
The town’s general employees are seeking a vote on unionizing, which would force the town to negotiate with them before their pension plans could be changed.
Bargaining with the town’s police union, which has a contract that extends through September 2013, will likely begin in the spring after the police union declined Bullock’s request to start negotiations in January.
Then: As of late fall 2011, approximately 77% of the 133,000 cubic yards of sand that was deposited on the north end during the summer, in a $4.5 million emergency beach project to control erosion, remained. However, town officials had always emphasized that sand placement alone wasn’t a long-term erosion fix.
In November 2011, Coastal Planning & Engineering representatives presented the findings of the long-awaited Longboat Pass Inlet Management Study, which recommended the construction of three groins — one terminal groin at the northern tip of Greer Island (aka Beer Can) along with two permeable adjustable groins at the north end.
The commission hadn’t voted on the structures but had reached consensus to begin the permitting process.
Now: Tropical Storm Debby washed away approximately 150,000 cubic yards of sand from the north end over the summer. The storm took the last of the emergency sand, and then some.
In September, the commission agreed unanimously to move forward with a $6.2 million sand-and-structures project, which could begin as early as spring 2013.
Whitney Beach Plaza
Then: Not much had changed at Whitney Beach Plaza in the year since the Boston-based Juliani Kenney Investment Capital LLC purchased the shopping center. And that was cause for frustration from residents who wanted life at the largely vacant shopping center.
Brian Kenney, the firm’s principal at the time, denied rumors that his company would walk away from the property.
Now: Investment company principal Richard Juliani confirmed that he plans to put a liquor store and bar in the plaza.
According to Juliani, Kenney departed from the project about seven months ago. In November, Juliani formed a new corporation that, with Bradenton attorney Ryan Snyder and some other investors, now owns the shopping center. The corporation plans to inject about $1 million into the shopping center in the next three-to-six months, according to Juliani.