A Sarasota judge issued a judgment last week that mandates the town of Longboat Key must hold a referendum of its residents if it wants to grant future tourism uses within the Islandside Gulf-planned development.
The judgment also means changes must be made to the town’s codes and its Comprehensive Plan before a future Islandside application can be considered.
Sarasota County Clerk of the 12th Circuit Court Judge Lee Haworth issued the order Nov. 14, in an Islandside Property Owners Coalition declaratory relief action that challenged the town’s code changes. The changes were made, in part, to make the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s Islandside renovation-and-expansion project clearer under town codes. The appeal moved forward in August, even though an appeals court quashed the development order for the most recent project application. No future application for an Islandside project is expected in the near future.
Haworth heard arguments from the town and IPOC Sept. 20.
IPOC attorney Robert Lincoln argued his client’s eight challenges to the town’s zoning code changes, explaining 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.”
Haworth agreed, stating in his judgment that only dwelling (residential) units can be counted for purposes of approving future tourism uses, although town attorney David Persson believes Haworth’s judgment gives the town the ability to approve 245 more residential units in Islandside without triggering a referendum.
In an email to the Longboat Observer, Lincoln wrote, “In short, IPOC won.”
Persson didn’t disagree with Lincoln’s one-line assessment of the judgment.
“My interpretation has been that all units (tourist and dwelling units) should be counted, providing the lowest threshold before a vote was required,” Persson said. “I was obviously wrong.”
Persson said he will discuss the order with his client (the Longboat Key Town Commission), but won’t recommend appealing the order.
“The code changes were an attempt to maximize flexibility for this commission and future commissions under a Comprehensive Plan that was created more than 25 years ago for development and not the current redevelopment phase the town is undergoing,” Persson said.
In his judgment, Haworth explained he felt the town made the town’s codes and rules more confusing when it attempted to make code revisions to allow more flexibility when granting applications.
“The town must adopt clear and direct standards to guide the Town Commission in granting or denying the approval of outlining development plans,” wrote Haworth.
Persson said he will recommend the town “retreat to a much more conservative approach on how uses and departures are granted in the future.”
To do that, future changes to the town’s code and Comprehensive Plan must occur and will be performed after the town hires a planning consultant, which could happen as soon as next month. Community meetings with that consultant will be held to gauge how the island wants to face future redevelopment challenges through its codes.
“The ultimate solution is an island-wide evaluation of what this community is and what it wants to become,” Persson said.
Vice Mayor David Brenner called the judgment “disappointing.”
“The good news is Ocean Properties isn’t ready to submit a new application tomorrow, and this will give them time to revisit in depth what the project was about before submitting something that won’t be an issue in the future,” Brenner said.
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