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The Hilton flag that flies in front of the Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort could disappear if a renovation project doesn’t get under way this summer. File photo.
Longboat Key Wednesday, May. 29, 2013 4 years ago

Hilton eyes October as project start date

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort officials wanted to turn dirt for a new renovation-and-expansion this summer, but the goal is no longer feasible.

The town of Longboat Key is still in the process of reviewing and making changes to its codes and Comprehensive Plan that would help pave the way for a project that involves redeveloping existing Hilton buildings and its 102 rooms.

Delray Beach-based Ocean Properties Ltd., owner of the Hilton, is also interested in at least 85 of the 250 tourism units that would be used for a new tower on the property.

Ocean Properties Vice President Andy Berger told the Longboat Observer in January that to keep the Hilton flag flying on the property, renovations had to begin this summer and that both the commission and the Planning and Zoning Board had to approve the project before taking a summer hiatus.

But Sarasota attorney John Patterson, who is representing the Hilton and its pending project, told the Longboat Observer last week that the earliest the Hilton can file an application for the project and apply for a portion of the town’s tourism units is October.

“It’s just too tight to get it done before the town’s summer hiatus,” Patterson said.

Town Manager Dave Bullock said the town is working with Hilton officials, and the town’s planning staff will hold planning meetings with Hilton project engineers as needed throughout the summer to help move the process along.

“As they get designs finished, our staff can review them and provide input that will help speed things along once a project is submitted,” Bullock said.

Berger already hinted that the Hilton flag might be removed because the hotel will no longer represent Hilton criteria, and Patterson said that possibility still exists. But it doesn’t mean the hotel project won’t be built.

“If it’s not the Hilton flag flying, it could be another flag or an independent hotel if the company chooses to run the hotel itself,” Patterson said.

The Longboat Key Town Commission took the first step in moving forward the project by approving an ordinance that modifies the outline development process that distributes the pool of 250 tourism units that Key voters approved in 2008.

But a lot of work still needs to be done.

At the Planning and Zoning Board’s May 21 meeting, board members reviewed code and Comprehensive Plan changes that would allow the Hilton to seek a fifth floor and an additional 15 feet in height as part of its renovation-and-expansion project. Town codes, as written, don’t allow such a request because a judge has ruled the town’s outline development application process (ODP) can’t be used to approve such a request until the town makes sweeping code and Comprehensive Plan changes.

The change will allow the Hilton, zoned T-6 (six tourism units per acre), to request to redevelop through another process while asking for more units on an additional floor.

Currently, the Comp Plan process already allows for the distribution of the 250 tourism-unit pool and an additional story of up to 65 feet.

“This would just extend that right to the site-plan process, as well,” said Planning, Zoning and Building Director Robin Meyer.

Planning board members, though, directed staff to make further changes to a Comprehensive Plan draft they reviewed May 21. The board has serious issues with a staff and planning consultant proposal to take density rights away from properties in the future, which would force them to re-apply for the right to the density if they wish to use it again in the future.

The town is also finalizing a $125,000 contract with the Urban Land Institute to perform a complete review and modification of the town’s current codes and Comprehensive Plan.


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