More of the same.
That’s what Longboaters can expect starting at 9 a.m. Jan. 8, at Temple Beth Israel, when the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s renovation-and-expansion project goes before the Town Commission.
Even though club officials and project opponents spent days making their cases in front of the Planning & Zoning Board, which forwarded the project on to the commission for review in a 4-3 vote Dec. 10, the entire presentation must be made all over again.
But the process can’t be avoided — the same presenters will make the same presentations.
“It’s a quasi-judicial hearing, which means the commission must base their decision solely on what’s presented at the hearing,” said Town Clerk Trish Granger. “Plus, things might have changed since the club presented its project the first time around.”
Town attorney David Persson said he will work on getting both parties to agree to presentation time limits, in order to reduce the meeting lengths next month.
This time, the presentations will be made in front of a seven-person board, which will make the ultimate decision on a project that calls for a new Rees Jones-designed golf course; a new clubhouse; a 196-room, five-star hotel with an additional 34 units to be used for luxury residences; a new meeting center; two villa townhomes with a total of 10 units; two condominium buildings with 66 units each; and other recreational amenities.
Key Club attorney John Patterson and club General Manager Michael Welly welcomed the planning board’s decision to move the project forward last week with open arms.
“The planning board did a great job handling a project of this scope,” Welly said. “It’s the right time to acknowledge their accomplishments, and we agree it’s time to move the rest of the issues forward to the Town Commission.”
That’s one statement with which even the project’s biggest opponent agrees.
“We’re fine with the fact that this project is moving forward,” said Bob White, chairman of the Islandside Property Owners Coalition. “We will make a strong case next month and see if common ground can be reached on the Town Commission level.”
Knowing that the project most likely will take just as long, if not longer, to be considered by the commission next month, town staff has already reserved 10 days in January and February to review it.
For now, Jan. 8, 11, 15, 22 and 29 have been reserved. And, in February, commissioners have blocked off Feb. 12, 17, 19, 24 and 26.
The commission might need all of those dates to consider a project the planning board passed forward with a list of 40 conditions that must be met prior to project approval.
Club officials still have an issue with at least six of those conditions.
But Patterson is hopeful that many of the issues can be resolved with town staff.
“We are working with town staff in a constructive manner to resolve outstanding issues before bringing our project forward to the Town Commission,” Patterson said.
The most contentious condition is a request that guarantees the five-star hotel will be built as part of the project.
Patterson suggested earlier this month that club officials might consider building one of the proposed condominium towers at the same time as the hotel, which pleased planning board members.
Planning Board Vice Chairman Al Hixon called the hotel the lynchpin of the project and suggested the club consider adding four floors with 68 residential units to the top of the hotel, because the club contends the hotel cannot be built without the money from condominium sales.
Welly agreed to have his architects look at the concept.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].