Longtime Colony Beach & Tennis Resort General Manager Katie Klauber Moulton kept lowering her head and shaking it in disgust.
Longtime Colony owner Dr. Murray “Murf” Klauber sighed and turned away from the screen on more than one occasion.
And Longboat Key commissioners stared wide-eyed at the scene unfolding in front of them.
That scene was a series of photographs of Colony buildings displayed Dec. 11, in dimmed Town Hall chambers, during a special meeting. They showed rotting wood, concrete deterioration beyond the point of repair and buildings showing signs of collapsing.
The photographs were part of a 67-page report from Building Official Wayne Thorne and a recommendation from Town Manager Dave Bullock, who requested that existing units at the Colony be torn down.
The commission hasn’t seen the last of these images.
Commissioners approved a four-month extension of the grandfathered tourism units at the shuttered resort Dec. 11, making the latest tourism extension deadline April 30.
The commission learned Wednesday that it couldn’t legally make a teardown the condition of a tourism unit extension, as Bullock proposed.
Instead, commissioners will begin reviewing each building and determining whether it constitutes a nuisance property by codes. The process involves inviting unit owners and every interested Colony party to a 9 a.m. March 4 hearing that will also be open to the public. At that time, the commission will review a building-by-building summary of the property to determine whether each structure meets the criteria for nuisance and dangerous buildings and whether it needs to be torn down.
At the Dec. 11 meeting, Bullock called the buildings nuisances and threats to the health and safety of the general public during a storm.
“We have to think about town citizens who live nearby as a result of the decision by the collective Colony to let these buildings to continue to conduct a small implosion,” Bullock said. “It’s my opinion I will be here this time next year having this same discussion with the difference being the buildings will be in a state of further deteriorated condition.”
Because the Colony’s 237 units were built on 18 acres before the town created its tourism resort commercial classification that allows for just six units per acre, 129 of the resort’s 237 units are considered grandfathered, or legally non-conforming. The town would have deemed the property’s tourism use abandoned Aug. 15, 2011 — one year after the resort closed — if the commission hadn’t granted a series of extensions.
Thorne said there are 782 items that “meet the conditions of being dangerous structures” and 177 “serious issues” that need to be addressed. He said the buildings are “falling down on themselves.”
Bullock noted that Colony Beach & Tennis Association attorney Jeffrey Warren said at a recent bankruptcy hearing that the buildings will be torn down eventually.
“I’m trying to find a logical way to deal with a multitude of issues this collapsing development gives us,” Bullock said. “It’s a way to accomplish an improvement in the community.”
The commission also mandated the association increase a bond the town can use to make improvements to the property from $50,000 to $250,000 despite objections from Warren.
“If history is any indication, we will live on the edge of drawing the bond,” said Bullock, explaining the association still hasn’t corrected a fire-alarm issue in the mid-rise building at the town’s request. “I have no confidence things will get done unless we have resources to draw upon.”
Commissioners and Bullock had a tense discussion with Warren about the state of the property and how long it was going to take to raze the buildings and jumpstart the property that once was labeled “the jewel of the island” by Klauber and other residents in the past.
“You took me from being incredibly sad watching the deterioration of people’s property and improvement to being incredibly mad,” Commissioner Terry Gans said. “You still don’t have a developer and we want someone that enhances the future of this town. Stop insulting us.”
Warren said U.S. Bankruptcy Judge K. Rodney May will rule Jan. 27 on a proposed Colony settlement and urged commissioners to be patient.
Even Klauber asked commissioners to be patient, explaining he “finally sees a light at the end of this horrible nightmare.”
“Please don’t take immediate action to remove the current density,” said Klauber, who said he is working with a developer who will create “a fabulous new Colony.”
Mayor Jim Brown said the town is sick of waiting, though, and urged parties to take action.
“Everyone’s been fumbling around with this extremely valuable asset that’s now harming our community instead of helping it,” Brown said.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at firstname.lastname@example.org
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