The Longboat Key Club and Resort’s Islandside hearing may be on hiatus for much longer than a month.
The Key Club plans to work with town staff to amend portions of the zoning code, which could eliminate some of its departures from town code, and also take months to complete.
And Key Club attorney John Patterson also says town staff is open to suggestions for cleaning up the code.
“Both parties are interested in cleaning up the code so it is less vague, gives us more direction and will wipe away some of our departures,” Patterson said.
Working to resolve the issues on a code level, however, means that any code revisions proposed need to reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Board and the Town Commission.
Town Attorney David Persson said making code changes would have to be done in this order:
• The commission would have to give direction to the planning board to review the code.
• Code changes would have to be drafted by the town attorney.
• The planning board would review the ordinance and make a recommendation to the commission.
• The commission would have to approve the changes in two separate meetings that require a first and second reading.
That process could take months to achieve, instead of the anticipated month-long continuance that the club anticipated it would need.
Said Persson: “I have suggested this course of action for a long time, since before the club submitted its application.”
On Friday, Patterson began the Islandside hearing by explaining there are interpretations of the town code that have not been resolved between club officials and town staff.
Specifically, when the club presented a modified $400 million project on Friday, Feb. 12 that included raising the height of the proposed hotel and the proposed height reduction of the two condominium towers, an issue regarding view angles and building length arose.
Although Patterson suggested that the issue of building length was never brought up when the project was originally presented more than a year ago, Planning, Zoning and Building Director Monica Simpson disagreed.
When Patterson asked her during the hearing if that was true, Simpson said “that’s not entirely correct,” because the plan changed and new issues resulted from the revised plan.
Simpson told the commission that there are issues with departures and waivers that the club hasn’t addressed yet and said the application “needs a lot of re-working.”
Said Simpson: “The application is abundantly incomplete. I feel very uncomfortable going forward with the application in the state that it’s in.”
During the hearing, Commissioner Jim Brown made a motion to move forward with a continuance of the hearing that would reconvene no sooner than March 23 (the day after the statutory meeting at Town Hall that swears in commissioners to a new two-year term and selects a new mayor).
Patterson and Welly said they are meeting with town staff this week to discuss the issue regarding view angles and building length, because this particular issue does not allow the applicant to request a departure.
What would a new commission mean for the Islandside application?
Both town attorney David Persson and Longboat Key Club and Resort attorney John Patterson believe that the continuance of the application is for the best, even though the original goal was to achieve a vote on the application before the town’s municipal election Tuesday, March 16.
Neither attorney, however, expressed worry or displeasure with the fact that there could potentially be up to three new commissioners when the hearing reconvenes.
“The concern we had was one group of commissioners, who are acting as judges, making a vote during first reading and a different group making a vote on second reading,” Persson said. “Obviously, we will avoid that situation now.”
Persson, noting that at least two of the three candidates have sat in the audience for the majority of the club’s hearings, said the town would work to get any new commissioners up to speed on the project before the hearing reconvened.
“I will ask any new commissioners if they feel comfortable enough to move forward with the application when the hearing reconvenes,” Persson said. “If a new commissioner did not feel comfortable, we would back up the hearing to a point in time where they are comfortable.”
“Whether there are new commissioners or not, we still think the application should be approved on its merits,” Patterson said. “We will have ample material for them to review and get up to speed on this.”
Key Club General Manager Michael Welly said he was prepared for the current commission to take a vote on the project and said it’s unfortunate the hearing had to be continued.
“I want to make it clear we have not been dragging our feet for another commission,” Welly said. “I’m not concerned if the entire current commission stays intact or not.”
O'Connor lashes out
District 3 Commissioner Peter O’Connor became frustrated at the Islandside renovation-and-expansion hearing Friday, Feb. 19, when he realized the Longboat Key Club and Resort needed to ask for another continuance.
Asking whether the club would be ready to proceed before the March 16 election, O’Connor suggested the club has an incomplete application and should pull it from consideration.
Said O’Connor: “Why don’t you either withdraw the application, rework it or do something with it, but don’t just keep coming here and asking this town to go through this effort. We are not a bunch of small town yahoos. You are a big dime, guys, and you are treating us like we are less than you and that is not true.”
In response to O’Connor’s speech, Key Club General Manager Michael Welly said the club shares the frustration that the commissioner has with the delays.
Said Welly: “I don’t understand why the commissioner has those feelings and I don’t think they are deserved. Neither the town nor the club was prepared to move forward Friday. The delay does not represent the time necessary to solve our issues, but rather recognizes that in fairness to all, the hearings and the upcoming elections were becoming too close for comfort.”
Contact Kurt Schultheis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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