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Longboat Key Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009 8 years ago

Coalition disputes project

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

Days three and four of the Planning and Zoning Board’s Longboat Key Club and Resort’s Islandside renovation and expansion project hearing, which is still ongoing, allowed the opposition to dispute the project and the public to make their voices heard.

On Thursday, Nov. 5, Islandside Property Owners Coalition attorneys Michael Furen and Robert Lincoln told the planning board the $400 million project is “not compliant” with the town codes.

In short, the attorneys said the project does not meet the requirements of the town’s code, violates the Gulf-planned development in which the project would reside and creates an adverse relationship to the existing Islandside neighborhood.

More than 200 Longboat Key residents, business owners and attorneys filled Temple Beth Israel Nov. 5 and approximately 100 people came back to the temple Friday, Nov. 6. On Friday, 35 people stepped up to a podium to tell the planning board whether they supported or opposed the project.

The planning board is charged with making a recommendation to the Town Commission about a $400 million proposal that includes a new Rees Jones-designed golf course; a new clubhouse; a new 196-room, five-star hotel with an additional 34 units to be used either for tourism or residences; a new meeting center; two villa townhomes with a total of 10 units; two condominium buildings with 66 units each; a new Wellness Center with enhanced spa-and-fitness facilities; and other recreational amenities for club members and guests.

Furen began the public hearing by explaining the project “isn’t about the economic needs of the community.”
“This hearing and the review of the application before it are not about the quality of the applicants, the quality of the consultants, the quality of the proposal or whether the development could be a potential economic stimulus to the Key,” Furen said. “What this hearing is about is whether the town will preserve the integrity of a completely built-out planned unit development that was approved 30 years ago.”

Furen said the hearing is “really about the hundreds of people who made significant life-changing, lifestyle decisions and spent millions of dollars to purchase homes in the Islandside community, which relied on the integrity of the planned unit development.”

Furen displayed various outline development plans and amendments approved over the years for Islandside, which state that the Islandside golf course and clubhouse sites (where the club wants to build residential units and a meeting center) are not listed as development sites.

Furen also says town codes state the club cannot legally transfer density from one tract to another in the Gulf-planned development for use in its proposed project.

Islandside Property Owner Coalition members maintain there is protection in place for the Islandside recreational facilities, Furen said, that “require the club to be a private membership club that shall not be operated primarily as a commercial enterprise open to the public.”

Numerous outline development plans on file at Town Hall for Islandside, Furen said, show the Gulf-planned development “as primarily residential in character with limited commercial development.”

Although Furen admitted that he did represent a client years ago that received permission to rezone a portion of the Islandside Gulf-planned development from commercial use to residential, he explained his client “was not asking to rezone an existing development site that was dedicated as recreational space.”
In his closing remarks, Furen said it’s the planning board’s responsibility to preserve the integrity of the Islandside development that’s currently in place.

Marty Black
Marty Black, an Islandside Property Owners Coalition consultant and the town’s former planning and zoning official, was the defense’s first and only witness.

Black, also the former city manager of Venice, explained the town’s outline development plan preserves the Islandside open space and recreational amenities that are in place.

Black also said the town has indicated there is a build-out capacity on the island that states there are only 104 total units available for development on the island.

“The applicant has understated the intensity of this project,” said Black, who also questioned whether the project’s meeting center could be labeled as an accessory use because it’s being placed on a separate parcel of land.

Robert Lincoln
Attorney, Icard Merrill
Islandside Property Owners Coalition co-counsel Robert Lincoln said the town’s codes and Comprehensive Plan prohibit commercial uses and new tourism uses in the Gulf-planned development.

“It’s clear the intent is to take a private club for the benefit of Islandside residents and throw it out the window,” Lincoln said.

“The proposed hotel, spa, restaurant, meeting rooms, offices and clubhouse are prohibited because they are commercial uses.”

Lincoln said the club couldn’t count the golf course when it factors its available density, because town code prevents an applicant from using land it is attempting to modify in its plan.

“The Key Club wants to use density rights that Arvida sold to other properties in deeds transferred to other condominiums on site,” said Lincoln, who contends the club can only ask for roughly 175 units left in the Gulf-planned development that were never issued to any other development.
Bob White
President, Islandside Property Owners Coalition
Bob White, president of the Islandside Property Owners Coalition, said the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s Islandside project “has a number of pros and cons.

“Club officials say this project will prevent the decline of the club and reverse the decline of the Key,” White said. “But the net benefits may not be as great as we are led to believe when the impact of the project is considered.

White said “hundreds of property owners invested millions of dollars on the assurance the town would uphold the integrity of the zoning code and planned unit development.”

Rick Crawford
President, Positive Change for LBK
Rick Crawford told the planning board he wanted to make it clear that the Islandside Property Owners Coalition (IPOC) does not represent many residents that live behind the Islandside gates.

“I believe the project will ensure the long-term future of the club and the Key,” Crawford said. “We see the club’s redevelopment plan as vital to the economic future of Longboat Key.”

What’s next: The Planning and Zoning Board’s Islandside hearing will be continued at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11, at which time attorneys from both sides can offer rebuttals and the board members can begin to deliberate the project. If needed, the planning board has also set aside Nov. 17, Dec. 4 and Dec. 10 as future dates to make a recommendation to the Town Commission, which has the final say over the project.

Four days of Planning and Zoning Board public hearings for The Longboat Key Club and Resort’s expansion and renovation hearings have cost taxpayers:

Taxpayer costs
• $3,400 to rent Temple Beth Israel ($850 per day)
• $2,857.50 in audio/media equipment-rental fees
• $760 in lunches for planning board members
• $287.19 in breakfast food, coffee and miscellaneous costs

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