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Longboat Key Wednesday, May. 5, 2010 7 years ago

IPOC will challenge code amendments

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

Islandside Property Owners Coalition attorney Michael Furen has a 13-page petition challenge drawn up and ready to be filed if the Town Commission approves zoning code amendments May 20.

On Friday, April 30, Furen sent a draft of the petition to town attorney David Persson and town special counsel attorney Nancy Stroud.

Asked why he sent a draft of the petition to town counsel, Furen said: “We hope that the town realizes there is a serious problem with these zoning-code amendments.”

Furen must wait until the commission approves the code changes before filing his petition to the town of Longboat Key.

The seven proposed amendments to the code submitted to the town by the Longboat Key Club and Resort, in an effort to diminish many of the legal challenges presented by IPOC, were moved forward Monday, May 3 by a 4-3 Town Commission vote to a second reading May 20.

Since the club filed its outline development plan for a $400 million Islandside renovation-and-expansion project, Furen has maintained the project cannot be built as proposed in accordance with the town’s Comprehensive Plan and zoning regulations.

The draft petition calls for relief pursuant to a state statute, challenging the adopted land-development regulations of the town on the basis they are inconsistent with the town’s Comprehensive Plan.

The petition states: “the amendments materially alter and change numerous provisions of the land-development code governing the Gulf-planned development zoning district. IPOC, thus, has ‘associational standing’ to file and process this challenge to the amendments as being inconsistent with the plan.”

IPOC requests in the draft petition the town immediately amend and revise the town’s zoning code to be consistent with its Comprehensive Plan and refuse to issue any development orders or permits based on the code amendments.

Furen says IPOC stands ready to start an administrative review process if a petition is filed, but he stresses this action is not a lawsuit.

“It’s an administrative challenge to the zoning-code amendments as being inconsistent with the town’s Comprehensive Plan,” Furen said.

If the petition is filed, the town will have 30 days to respond to it and correct its actions.

If the town does nothing to correct the actions taken, Furen says IPOC can file a petition with the state’s Department of Community Affairs (DCA), which would have 60 days to review the matter and make a decision.

If DCA determines the town’s actions are inconsistent, then the matter is referred to the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings and an administrative law judge will hold a hearing on Longboat Key with both parties.

If a law judge agrees the town’s actions are inconsistent with its Comprehensive Plan, the matter is referred to the governor and his cabinet, which Furen says has the ability to impose sanctions on the town, including taking away revenue-sharing funds that include funds available for town beach-renourishment projects.

Furen said IPOC also has the right to file an appeal with the District Court of Appeals if the judges involved disagree with IPOC’s views during this process.

Furen also stresses the pending actions taken by IPOC have nothing to do with the club’s Islandside application, which is scheduled to be resubmitted to the town Wednesday (see box).

If the Town Commission approves the project in June, Furen said IPOC reserves the right to file a lawsuit.

Said Furen: “IPOC has been willing to sit down and try and achieve a reasonable compromise and allow some redevelopment. So far, we have had no response at all to our offer to sit down at the table with the club.”

Key Club General Manager Michael Welly, however, called Furen’s comments “a bold-faced lie.”

“We have documented letters from Mr. Furen early on in this process that say ‘no thanks’ in our efforts to sit down with IPOC,” Welly said. “And when we did sit down with IPOC, it produced absolutely nothing except for them to be able to restate their position.”

In a statement released to The Longboat Observer, IPOC President and L’Ambiance resident Bob White says his coalition has proposed two alternatives to the club’s plan that were rejected.

Welly, however, said the only offer he received from IPOC included no specifics and only urged the club to come back with “a greatly scaled-down hotel, meeting center and condo towers.”

“The time for us to negotiate was before we spent millions of dollars in drawings and re-drawings to scale down this project,” Welly said. “There are no longer any offers that will be considered. Those days have long passed.”

White, meanwhile, said that if a petition is filed, it will be done to determine whether the code changes are in compliance with the town’s Comprehensive Plan.

“This is one way of getting an opinion as to whether or not that’s the case,” White said. “Whatever ruling the state makes will not delay the club’s application.”

Welly, however, said Furen’s decision to forward a draft-petition challenge to the town attorney is “a very risky scare tactic.”

“The town attorney, the town’s special counsel attorney and the town’s planning director all agree that these changes can be made to the town’s codes,” Welly said.

Commissioner Gene Jaleski warned the commission at its Monday, May 3 special meeting that a challenge was looming.

“If I were to place a bet if there’s an administrative action after our voting today, I would vote in the affirmative,” he said. “The issue I have is legality and expensive lawsuits for the town and our ill-defined Comprehensive Plan, which needs to be addressed before these code changes are made.”

Said Persson at Monday’s meeting: “This is not without risk regardless of what you do. Whenever you make a decision, you have the ability to be sued. So you might as well make your decision and do the right thing, and let the chips fall where they may. You are the policy makers of this town and are being called upon to make this decision.”

Key Club Resubmits

The Longboat Key Club and Resort will resubmit its $400 million Islandside renovation-and-expansion project application Wednesday, May 5 to the Planning, Zoning and Building Department. To view the petition, click here.

Contact Kurt Schulteis at [email protected].

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