You can pretty much guess that all of the parties involved in the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort’s legal spaghetti ball took a look at their calendars last week and realized: Time really is running out. We need to get this settled.
That reality had to set in after the Colony unit owners’ association board and Colony owner Dr. Murray “Murf” Klauber received word that their neighbors are becoming increasingly agitated by the Colony’s slum-like conditions — and that’s putting it mildly.
As reported last week in the Longboat Observer, the directors of the Aquarius Club sent a letter Aug. 10 to Town Hall, strongly opposing a request from the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort Association for a third extension deadline on requiring the Colony to reopen some of its units for business.
The gun to everyone’s head is this: If the Colony does not reopen some of its tourist units by Dec. 31, the Town Commission could yank the Colony’s tourist designation and reduce the 15-acre property’s usable density from 237 units to 90 units.
This would be a monumental tragedy for Longboat Key.
And the last time we observed the commissioners on this subject, they weren’t in much of a generous mood in spite of the thought of losing the Colony. It appears there are four of the seven commissioners ready to end the Colony as we all have known it.
Let’s not forget, either, the tragedy of yanking the Colony’s tourist designation also would create another giant-size, legal spaghetti ball, tangled even more than the one that exists now. Can you imagine all of the lawsuits that will erupt among the Colony’s 200-plus owners over which owners would have to forfeit their properties?
That and the looming deadline are why we’re guessing Klauber and the association board members must have swallowed hard after learning of the Aquarius board’s letter.
Day by day, the clock is ticking faster. Indeed, as of today (Aug. 23), the Colony combatants have only 130 days to reopen — 4.3 months.
Get it done. Avoid the greater tragedy for all — for the unit owners and for Longboat Key.
Get it done — to buy more time to craft the right settlement.
It’s a stretch to think any self-respecting tourist might pay to stay in what Mike Boesen of Tencon described as “25 boxes worth of rat traps” that is hastily renovated. But that’s beside the point. Beating the deadline is the issue.
Think about it: If Longboat Key is to remain the gem that it became, the gem that it is and the gem it should be in the future, the island — and Greater Sarasota-Manatee — needs a renewed, redeveloped Colony Beach & Tennis Resort. The Longboat Key Club and Resort and Hilton Beachfront Resort are not enough.
And while there may be some Colony owners who would welcome downsizing the property to 90 seasonally used condominium units, to see the effects of that, all you must do is drive a couple of miles north on Gulf of Mexico Drive to observe the Positano luxury condominiums.
At one time that property was a thriving Holiday Inn that funneled year-round tourists and future real estate buyers through Longboat Key and Sarasota and Manatee counties, pumping economic health into the Key and region.
Today, the Positano is 29 luxury condo units. It doesn’t take a genius to understand what that means.
Beat the deadline.
+ There is hope
Jay Yablon, president of the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort Association, gives us hope.
He says voluntary settlement talks are continuing among the Colony association board, a board advisory committee, Dr. Murray “Murf” Klauber and four development groups interested in taking on renovating or redeveloping the Colony.
And to hear Yablon tell it, it sounds as if the groups are talking as adults and not like hissing cats. Progress indeed.
At the same time, Yablon acknowledges: “I’ve come very close in the last six months to throwing up my hands and walking away. But I want to see this through to a good resolution.”
It’s still extraordinarily complicated. The association board’s new advisory committee is helping focus on reaching a settlement first between Klauber and the association — “and then hoping the other parties would come along,” Yablon said.
Those other parties include Colony Lender, which is holding a note said to be valued at $12 million on some of Klauber’s Colony property; and a bankruptcy court trustee who would expect to be paid as well.
Yablon told us: “I don’t think Dr. Klauber is looking to obstruct anything.”
Meantime, all of the players are awaiting a ruling any time from U.S. Bankruptcy Judge K. Rodney May. One of his rulings is expected to address whether the association is to pay Klauber up to $20 million in damages.
But Yablon says even if Judge May says that is so, Yablon would not be surprised to see one if not both sides appeal May’s rulings — all the while continuing private talks to reach a settlement.
Yablon also said he has detected that all sides are showing signs of being worn out. Take that as a sign of hope, too. When you’re beaten down enough, you have a tendency to give in and settle.
We can only hope.
AS ALWAYS, I-4 CORRIDOR TO DECIDE PRESIDENT
By now, everyone knows if Barack Obama or Mitt Romney is to win the presidency, he must carry Florida’s 29 electoral college votes.
Florida is one of the swing states. And indeed Florida is considered a “swinger” because of recent history:
• 1996: Bill Clinton won 48% and Bob Dole won 42.3%
• 2000: George W. Bush and Al Gore each received 48.8% of the vote, with Bush winning by 537 votes.
• 2004: Bush won 52% of the vote to John Kerry’s 47.1%.
• 2008: Obama won 51% to John McCain’s 48.2%
Now consider the registered-voter breakdown: Democrats: 40%; Republicans: 36.1%; NPA (non-party affiliates): 20.8%
Clearly, the non-party affiliates, or independents, will be crucial to the outcome. And this brings us to one of the most important factors, according to Dr. Susan McManus, Florida’s political science expert at the University of South Florida: Voter turnout.
McManus told us recently that turnout is everything. Whichever party is most effective getting their people to the polls will determine the winner.
By that criterion, the Republicans have the advantage. In the last two presidential elections, Republicans outvoted Democrats in terms of having a higher percentage of their party’s registered voters vote — by 9 and 18 percentage points.
What’s more, McManus says, in this year’s election she is expecting the conservative, white soccer moms to turn out, whereas in 2008 many didn’t vote because of Sarah Palin. Add to this Obama’s approval among suburban whites in Florida is dropping precipitously.
In the end, though, as it often does, the vote is going to come down to the I-4 corridor — who wins Orange (Orlando), Osceola (Disney workers), Hillsborough (Tampa), Pinellas and Volusia (Daytona Beach) counties.
Osceola, Hillsborough and Pinellas each voted for Bush in 2004, Obama in 2008. Volusia voted Democratic in 2004 and 2008, but voted for Republican Gov. Rick Scott in 2010. Orange is always Democratic, but its margins have been shrinking.
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The Observer will hold a debate for Longboat Key Town Commission candidates at 7 p.m. March 10, at Bayfront Park Recreation Center, 4052 Gulf of Mexico Drive.
Greg Hoffman SCOREs award
Longboat Key resident Greg Hoffman received Manasota SCORE’s Platinum Leadership Award at the organization’s 50th anniversary awards luncheon Feb. 24.
Spring forward for Daylight Saving
Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday, so turn your clocks forward by an hour before bedtime Saturday night.