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Longboat Key Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009 8 years ago

Hilton applies for tourism units

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

The Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort submitted an application to the Planning, Zoning and Building Department Monday, Aug. 17, requesting an additional 85 tourism units from the newly-created pool of 250 tourism units available Key-wide.

Longboat Key Hilton owner Mark Walsh vowed last year that he would expand his 102-unit hotel considerably if the voters approved the charter amendment allowing existing grandfathered tourism units to be converted to legal tourism units at their current density.

Walsh made good on his promise when the Hilton’s application was the only one submitted by Monday, the application deadline date, which was created in the event that the town received multiple applications at once and needed additional time to review them before dispensing the units.

The application proposes to increase the number of hotel guestrooms from 102 rooms to 187 rooms.

In the application, which has not yet been reviewed by town staff, Walsh and his agent propose the demolition and reconstruction of the existing two-story restaurant, bar, retail and banquet facility.

The Longboat Key Hilton, owned by Delray Beach-based Oprock Longboat Fee LLC, currently has several structures on its 5.6-acre site, including the five-story guestroom building and two-story public facilities building that include the restaurants, retail, banquet and support facilities.

The application states that Walsh intends to maintain the 102-room, five-story guestroom building and the reception building, while demolishing the public-facilities building.

If approved, the new development would include guestrooms with waterfront views and a new public-facilities building that would house a restaurant, bar and meeting-room space.

The new construction would be located above a ground-level parking garage.

The project proposes to construct a new building on five floors that includes 85 guestrooms, a 2,200-square-foot restaurant, a 940-square-foot bar and a 1,290-square-foot meeting room.
Walsh did not return a phone call seeking comment for the story.

But the application states that the Longboat Key Hilton is asking for the additional units because “the original 102-unit hotel is no longer adequate to handle the need for resort hotel rooms in the Longboat Key area.”

The application states once the project is approved and all permits are received for the work, construction will begin within 90 days and will be complete no later than three years from the day construction commences.

Planning Board Vice Chairman Al Hixon said he’s interested in seeing the Longboat Key Hilton’s application.

“But the weakness in the real-estate market is displayed by the fact there is only one application sought for the potential 250 tourism units to be added,” Hixon said. “And the lack of competition is disappointing.”

Explaining that the hotel was built in the late 1970s to provide hotel accommodations, the application states that, over the years, various hotels along Gulf of Mexico Drive have morphed into residential properties.

“To remain financially sound and competitive for the next generation of resort guests, the hotel needs to take steps to reposition itself for the future,” the application states. “This will help ensure the economic viability of the surrounding commercial properties.”

In order to complete the development, the application states that eight departures from the existing zoning code need to be achieved.

Specifically, the hotel owner is looking to expand existing floor-and-space ratios, increase density ratios and build the five-story building on property that permits a maximum height of four stories.

The proposed addition of 85 hotel rooms will add approximately 60 weekday afternoon peak vehicle trips in season, according to the application.

The Longboat Key Hilton is the first town property to take advantage of two charter amendments that allow grandfathered tourism and condominium units to redevelop to their current density and the creation of a tourism unit pool of 250 units.

The application comes 29 months after Longboaters overwhelmingly approved both measures in March 2007, in the hopes of boosting Key tourism to the year 2000 levels.

The voluntary-rebuild ordinance allows grandfathered properties on the Key to tear down and rebuild their properties without losing some of their current units that do not conform to the town’s current density requirements.

And, the tourism-unit ordinance creates a pool of 250 units, which is said to be the historical difference between the number of units in the year 2000 (the year the Holiday Inn shut down) and the present time.
Planning, Zoning and Building Director Monica Simpson and her staff must review the project with the applicant before it’s considered for placement on a future Planning and Zoning Board agenda.


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