The Longboat Key Town Commission Monday postponed a decision, again, on extending the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort Association’s Dec. 31 deadline for re-opening the resort.
Instead, commissioners voted to continue the hearing on the request until its Oct. 1 regular meeting, at which time they will review language for a new extension timeline that comes along with several requirements and conditions.
The commission agreed to create a hybrid of two extension options provided by Town Manager Dave Bullock. A decision on who will have future control of the resort still looms in a future Tampa-based bankruptcy courtroom.
Following the final court ruling that decides who has control of the property or a future negotiated settlement between all the affected Colony parties, the town will grant a one-year extension if the Colony intends to re-open the existing buildings. If the Colony intends to tear down and rebuild the resort, a three-year extension will be granted. The extensions require the owner of the property to submit a complete development plan for the re-opening of the resort within three months of being labeled as the entity that controls the property. That plan must include:
• Schedules for all planning, financing, design and construction phases.
• A specific timeframe for the submittal of site plans and building permits.
• A financing plan.
• A construction plan.
If the Colony fails to meet any of the above requirements, a public hearing would be scheduled to discuss whether to continue with an extension. Under this option, the Colony must also submit quarterly progress updates, settlement negotiations and pending litigation.
While the Colony waits to find out which entity is in charge, the town also plans to impose the following conditions on the property:
• Secure any unsafe buildings.
• Maintain landscaping and irrigation on portions of the property that are visible to the public and nearby properties.
• Maintain town approved pest- and vermin-control programs.
• Submit to the town quarterly progress reports.
• Provide the town with a $50,000 cash bond guaranteeing the above conditions.
The myriad of conditions will be drawn up for commissioners to review Oct. 1 and were agreed upon after commissioners realized they can’t control how quickly the resort gets up and running again or how long the litigation continues.
“Whatever we approve is built on a house of sand, and it disturbs me we are proceeding without knowing what will happen,” said Commissioner Pat Zunz.
Commissioner Phillip Younger said talk about what kind of project will be built and whether it will be a new development or a rehabilitation of the existing units is a waste of time.
“We are spending a lot of time talking about rehabbing with one entity that may not have final control over this property,” Younger said.
Mayor Jim Brown agreed.
“I don’t think we can tell them what to do,” Brown said.
Commissioners agreed it’s in the town’s best interest to preserve the 237 units that exist on the property.
The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort Association came prepared to ask the town for a revised 36-month rebuild timeline beyond the Dec. 31 deadline.
Colony Association attorney Don Hemke quickly told commissioners, though, that the Association agreed with Bullock’s proposals. Hemke also noted that a landscaping contractor has already hauled away overgrown vegetation and was working to meet town requirements.
Former mayor and Longboat Key Revitalization Task Force Chairman George Spoll urged commissioners not to give the Colony Association an open-ended extension.
“We have discussed this at great length and are supportive of maintaining this as a tourism facility,” Spoll said. “At this moment, it would be a severe mistake to grant a long-term, open-ended time of extension because (the Association’s) past record has not been good. We see no reason that a decision has to be taken at this time. It should be continued, and we see short-term extensions as the best course of action.”
Attorney Charlie Bartlett, representing longtime Colony owner Dr. Murray “Murf” Klauber, also maintained that a long-term extension of the “property may not provide the town the teeth necessary to keep this project on track.”
“There is a concern the Association has not made the right choice in terms of a developer to bring this project forward,” Bartlett said. “Our concerns are that plans are incomplete because they don’t include having a deal in place with all the stakeholders.”
Commissioner Jack Duncan proposed the motion to move forward with the conditions outlined by Bullock.
“The folks involved in this process are good people trying to do good things, but, at the end of the day, they are living in the same quagmire we are in about who owns this property, who’s in control and who’s on first,” Duncan said. “If ownership or control goes somewhere else, we stop our extension process and renegotiate that with the new controlling power.”
Commissioners hope affected parties can reach an amicable solution long before the courts can.
Update: The Longboat Key Town Commission approved a one-year extension for the re-opening of the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort as a tourism property at its Oct. 1 meeting. The commission also offered a three-year extension to the property owner who could submit a development plan for the entire 18-acre resort.
Also in October, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge K. Rodney May chose a damages award for the Partnership that includes Dr. Murray “Murf” Klauber approximately $23 million while leaving control of units with unit owners. The Association plans to appeal.