Keep Longboat Special aims to block development of a hotel proposed at the north end of the island.
The Longbeach Village residents behind a grassroots effort to prevent Floridays Development Co. from building a 120-room hotel on the north end don’t believe the proposal is just a north-end issue.
They want all Longboaters to unite against the proposal.
The latest proposed development for the north end could spark a summer of email and direct mail campaigns.
Village residents Pete and Carla Rowan launched Keep Longboat Special last month as an offshoot of Save the Longbeach Village, a group that formed in 2013 to fight expansion plans for Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub.
“The north-end people have been portrayed as wanting nothing to change, but we just want change for the better.” — Keep Longboat Special member Georgia Walters
“‘Save’ was developed to try to protect the Village itself,” said Carla Rowan. “We didn’t want that group to become the father of this effort, so we’ve created another network dedicated to try to preserve the entire Key.”
The new organization aims to defeat an Aug. 30 referendum that would lay the groundwork for the hotel (see sidebar, right). The group wants to make sure islanders see how the project will affect not just the gateway to Longbeach Village, but also the entire Key.
The Rowans and fellow core organizers Craig and Georgia Walters have a list of roughly 400 email addresses they’ve already sent a list of “11 myths” they contend Floridays has created about the new hotel. They’ve also asked for volunteers to send 50 flyers each to island residents that cite traffic, the possibility of lower-end lodging, building size and other factors to elicit a “no” vote on the referendum.
The group’s website, KeepLongboatSpecial.org, even allows supporters to print a bumper sticker.
“There are members from all over the island that are recognizing that the hotel is not a good idea,” said Georgia Walters.
Carla Rowan said that an informal survey she conducted last month showed that 75% of at least 80 respondents would be comfortable with the site converting to residential use. Other suggestions included green space, small commercial, such as a coffee shop or mixed-use.
“Anyone saying that we are building a ‘low-end’ hotel is blatantly speaking mistruths in order to promote their agenda. The truth is that we are planning a very upscale project with a high level of onsite food and beverage service, a resort-style pool, spa treatment rooms and other service amenities.” — Floridays Project Manager James Brearley
“The north-end people have been portrayed as wanting nothing to change, but we just want change for the better,” said Georgia Walters.
Floridays Project Manager James Brearley said he was surprised and disappointed when he found out about the group, which he says is spreading misinformation about the project that is still in the early stages.
“Anyone saying that we are building a ‘low-end’ hotel is blatantly speaking mistruths in order to promote their agenda,” Brearley said. “The truth is that we are planning a very upscale project with a high level of onsite food and beverage service, a resort-style pool, spa treatment rooms and other service amenities.”
Floridays plans to send out a mailer of its own “to provide our counter to the mistruths being spread by the group that has formed to oppose what we believe would be a positive project.”
Keep Longboat Special organizers contend that the proposed hotel will bring 300 people to the Village area at any given time of the year, which will clog roads and restaurants. Though the latest plans include a restaurant, Carla Rowan doubts it will be as self-contained as developers claim.
“They will not be able to feed 300 people,” Rowan said.
A particular sticking point with Keep Longboat Special is that the hotel, which will operate under the Floridays flag, will bear a three-star rating.
“This is just a regular old three-star hotel that’s not on the beach and has no special amenities at all,” said Craig Walters. “People are alarmed at that, because that’s what you see in St. Petersburg and Fort Myers.”
But Brearley said in most cases, the quality of a hotel is not directly related to the star rating.
“It is a shame that we are having this level of discourse in discussing a project,” Brearley wrote in a point-by-point rebuttal to the myths email.
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