Welfonder expresses reservations on Unicorp’s proposal.
By Manfred Welfonder | Guest columnist
As a resident of Longboat Key for about 20 years and a potential developer-partner for the Colony property, I am providing reservations and oppositions from us and also from numerous residents and Colony owners who have asked us to assist them with their evaluations in regard to Unicorp’s proposal.
Concerns that are related to the proposed mixed-use and allocation of the 165 tourism units
In the March 2008 referendum, residents approved the 250 tourism units pool that makes it possible that qualified properties may apply for such tourism units, as an example, a T-6 zoned property like the Colony could only apply with a 100% tourism-use. The community was well informed about such criteria. However, the town has changed the criteria per an amendment to its Comprehensive Plan without a referendum and without related detailed publication to the community.
It is necessary that the community and its property owners will have knowledge about the new regulations so that tourism-units applications from mixed-use properties can be submitted as well. This was not permitted at the time of the referendum. Therefore, no single tourism-pool unit should be given away now, not until other property owners can make well-informed decisions based on the new regulations.
It would not be fair to the community to give away all of the 165 tourism-pool units to one property while other properties became qualified for such benefits.
Clarifications in regard to density and intensity/volume
The wording “density is related to the number of units in a project” and is being used very often in the past but doesn’t provide a complete description of the town’s understanding that Longboat Key is a low-density community.
Nobody can recognize from the outside how many units are on a certain property (250 or 210, or?) but you can easily see the volume or intensity of a structure. The current application provides a huge and massive construction project with estimated 600,000 square feet of intensity versus about 300,000 of the old Colony. The proposed intensity is nearly twice compared to the existing intensity and MW Group’s project.
Is this project feasible?
At the last P&Z Board meeting, Unicorp mentioned starting sales prices per residential unit at $4 million and up to $10 million.
Such extraordinary sales expectations can make construction lenders very cautious, without taking into consideration that a market-crash can happen again. The applicant is stating that he needs revenue from the condominium sales to support a five-star luxury hotel operation. Where would the capital come from to keep the hotel above water if the condominium sales do not materialize?
Relevant beach unit considerations
There are up to 12 beach units located between the Erosion Control Line and Gulf Beach Setback Line, no new construction is allowed in the area where these beach units are. We have seen that the application does not include the doable restoration of the beach units.
We had and have communications with most of the owners of these beach units and received professional advice from engineers and construction business that the beach units, at least most of them, can be repaired or renovated and made safe and fit, and to-be- part of MW Group’s village-type ambiance redevelopment.
We now believe that such beach units owners will do whatever is possible to do to preserve their beach assets.
Some final thoughts
Owners and other involved parties have had ongoing reservations about Unicorp’s various past and recent statements whereby missing a trustful relationship. At the last P&Z Board meeting, a board member was very firm about such concerns.
Colony Association members are willing to enter into legal fights against their board by referring to the owners’ rights to vote on such a relevant proposal while the board is bypassing such essential voting rights.
Related to our long-term efforts, the MW Group has also expended capital, energy and much more time compared to the present applicant’s schedule of involvement.
Per Colony owners’ requests, our group started with the redevelopment efforts back in 2006, and since then discussed our plans with three town-managers, four planning, zoning and building directors, numerous commissioners and P&Z board members whereby we always stated (for 12 years), that we will follow official regulations and provide a proposal that is reasonable, feasible and in the best interest of all parties.
Our development group is well respected and recognized. Our proposal is reasonable, doable and feasible. We will use the grandfathered 237 tourism units and ask for a moderate number of additional tourism-units, there are no mixed-use intentions: It is a low density and low intensity village-type redevelopment, open to the public as before.
We will not ask for departures or variances, and only use the allowable 10% of the hotel space for to-be-added commercial space.
We are confident that we will come to an agreement with the owner of the “2.3 acres” to include those parcels into our project. If not, we will move forward with the allowable 15-acre scenario with the potential blessings by the court that is currently evaluating the termination of the owners’ association and related 15-acre assets.
Our high-quality project is at reasonable four-star standards to take care of the wide majority of the community’s interests versus the desire of a smaller group that wants to be in an exquisite five-star luxury place.