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Longboat Key Tuesday, Apr. 17, 2018 2 years ago

Fleetwood appeals Longboat Key's approval of St. Regis project

Blake Fleetwood has asked the court to quash and reverse the Town Commission's decision to allow Unicorp National Developments to redevelop the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort.
by: Bret Hauff Staff Writer

Blake Fleetwood, an owner at the former Colony Tennis & Beach Resort, this week filed an appeal of Longboat Key’s approval of a plan to redevelop the once-iconic spot into a St. Regis Hotel and Residences.

The appeal, in the form of a lawsuit filed Monday in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court, claims Chuck Whittall and Unicorp National Developments Inc. did not have standing as “the landowner” to seek the town’s approval to redevelop the 17.6-acre site at 1620 Gulf of Mexico Drive.

Blake Fleetwood

“[T]he Town properly requires that ‘the landowner’ of the subject property, in its entirety, file and sign the application, directly or through the landowner’s agent,” the lawsuit says. “That was not done in this instance.”

Fleetwood’s attorney, Daniel Lobeck, testified to this same argument before the Town Commission at its quasi-judicial hearings in March when the project was approved. Lobeck contended that because Unicorp did not own all the land at the Colony, the developer did not have authority to seek a land use change.

“I’m trying to get Chuck [Whittall] flat out to come to a compromise, to come to a settlement and to follow the condo laws of Florida and don’t try to take someone’s home without their permission,” Fleetwood said.

Town Attorney Maggie Mooney-Portale, at the time of the hearing, assured commissioners of her confidence that Unicorp had standing to apply for redevelopment of the property.

Whittall said the appeal is “riddled with lies and misstatements,” and he hopes to have the case closed within nine months. Fleetwood said the same of Unicorp’s application for development.

“We think this is a bogus appeal,” Whittall said. “It’s just upsetting to us that people like Blake [Fleetwood] continue to try to frustrate the process.”

Chuck Whittall, Unicorp National Developments president

Unicorp, through its managing companies, owns 31 of the 237 Colony units. The Orlando-based firm also obtained an affidavit appointing Unicorp attorney Brenda Patten “to act on [the Colony Condominium Association’s] behalf as a representative of owners,” according to the lawsuit.

That November decision to appoint Unicorp as a representative of the association was approved by a vote of 8-1. Fleetwood, who voted against authorizing Patten as an agent of the board, owns two units.

The appeal, filed April 16 in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court, also contends Unicorp did not identify “each and every person having an ownership in the subject property.”

Fleetwood claims in the lawsuit that Breakpointe LLC — managed by Andy Adams, who owns more than 70 units — was not “fully” identified in affidavits filed by a Unicorp attorney and Patten.

Breakpointe was not included in a list of outparcel owners submitted to the town. That omission, “whether inadvertently or to hide the fact that Respondent Unicorp could not argue that it had all of the ownership interest in the subject property,”  was later corrected by Patten, according to the lawsuit.

Read: Petition for Writ of Certiorari 

The lawsuit also claims Fleetwood was denied due process when the town gave Unicorp authority to demolish all buildings at the site, even those it does not own, upon the issuance of a demolition order by the town before an appeal could be filed.

“In sum, this is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse,” the lawsuit says. It asserts Whittall should own all the land before he is permitted to build on it. 

Fleetwood has asked the court to “quash and reverse” the Key’s approval of the St. Regis project.

“We basically get two bites of the apple, if we lose in the 12th Circuit we’re going to take it to the appeals courts,” Fleetwood said. “We intend to win on the first bite.”

Updated Wed., April 18 at 10:20 a.m. 

I’m a Longboat Key Staff Reporter. I write stories about how decisions and events affect the island, its leaders and its citizens. I received a bachelor's degree in journalism from Emerson College, where I wrote for The Boston Globe. Reach me at 941-366-3468 ext. 333.

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