The town and the Islandside Property Owners Coalition headed back to the courtroom last week.
Twelfth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Lee Haworth heard arguments Thursday, Sept. 20, in a hearing to review the Islandside Property Owners Coalition’s challenge of the town of Longboat Key’s code changes.
The changes, made in part to make the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s Islandside renovation-and-expansion project clearer under town codes, are still being challenged even though the development order for the most recent application of the project was quashed last month by an appeals court.
The three-hour hearing allowed both IPOC attorney Robert Lincoln and town assistant attorney Kelly Fernandez to make arguments to Haworth, who won’t make a ruling until both sides submit to his office by Oct. 1 closing written arguments.
Lincoln spent more than an hour arguing his client’s eight challenges to the town’s zoning-code changes; he said that amended zoning-code changes are not permissible. One of Lincoln’s main arguments focused on the use of tourism units at Islandside and whether the town can count density in Islandside using both residential and tourism units.
“We contend that tourism uses other than what was grandfathered in at Inn on the Beach were not allowed in the Gulf-planned development (GPD known as Islandside) under the Comprehensive Plan,” Lincoln said. “We also contend the town needs to hold a referendum before it can allow tourism uses.”
IPOC is seeking declaratory relief from Haworth. It hopes he will determine that the zoning changes the town made to accommodate the Islandside application are inconsistent with the town’s Comprehensive Plan.
Fernandez, meanwhile, said the town has consistently viewed the use of density in Islandside while using both residential and tourism units.
“The Comp Plan, admittedly, is not the beacon of clarity and arguably has some inconsistencies,” Fernandez said. “But, there has been consistency with encompassing both dwelling (residential) and tourism units in the GPD (Islandside).”
Fernandez also disputed Lincoln’s claim that the Longboat Key Town Commission catered specifically to the Key Club when it made the code changes and approved the project.
“Commissioners don’t have the willy-nilly authority to do whatever they like,” Fernandez said. “Applicable criteria have to be met first in a GPD, which encourages flexibility to begin with.”
Haworth told both sides he will need additional time to review the materials and the closing arguments both sides are being asked to submit. He also said he is reserving the right to call another hearing if he has additional questions.
Town Attorney David Persson told commissioners Monday he expects Haworth to make a decision some time in October.
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