Tourism just got a boost on Longboat Key. Voters gave the nod to the Longboat Key Club to use 300 units to build a hotel.
Longboat Key has spoken: Voters used the power of the postage stamp to approve a Longboat Key Club Islandside referendum request by Ocean Properties Ltd. Tuesday night. The approval allows the company to submit an application to build a new hotel and other amenities on the south end of the island.
The referendum was approved by 1,948 votes in favor, 53%, compared with 1,721 votes, 47%, that opposed the referendum.
The ballot question asked voters if the town should allow Ocean Properties Ltd. to convert 300 residential units within Islandside to tourism units for the company’s plans to build a new Longboat Key Club hotel.
A simple majority of 50% plus one of the returned ballots was needed for the referendum to pass.
A record number of voters participated in the Key’s first mail-in ballot. Islandwide, 3,669 residents, or 57.6%, of the island’s 6,370 registered voters approved the request.
In Manatee County, 562 voters, or 53.5%, opposed the referendum, and 488 voters, or 46.5%, were in favor of it.
In Sarasota County, 1,460 voters, or 55.7%, were in favor of the referendum, and 1,159 voters, or 44.3% opposed it.
Ocean Properties plans to submit an application to the town for a 259-unit hotel, expanded meeting space with 10 to 12 meeting rooms and approximately 93 condominium/villa units that are 130 feet tall. It expects to spend $100 million on the project.
Ocean Properties Vice President Mark Walsh said he was pleased to hear the results when contacted at his home in Delray Beach just before 7:30 p.m.
“We want to thank the town and the voters and let them know we appreciate their support,” Walsh said. “Now it’s time to get organized and start moving forward. This is a great first step toward a project that Longboat Key will be proud of.”
Walsh said it will take at least nine months to a year to assemble a team and submit an application for the town to review.
Leading up to the election, residents islandwide cited seasonal traffic issues as their top concern for approving a referendum that would allow another hotel on the island.
“What I would convey to Longboaters is we have the same peak season traffic concerns as they do,” Walsh said. “We will be looking at solutions long before this project ever comes out of the ground.”
Islandside Property Owners Coalition President Bob White cited traffic as “the elephant in the room” when discussing the referendum last week.
On Tuesday night, White called the results “a bit surprising,” especially results that showed the voters in Manatee County, who live farthest away from the project, opposed the referendum.
“I thought the Sarasota side would have been more skeptical than the north end,” White said. “But the ballot box is the ultimate decider, and a good number of the voters have spoken.”
Although White says he still has traffic concerns, he says IPOC doesn’t have concerns about Ocean Properties, which spent months negotiating a settlement for a future project that IPOC will support.
“They are certainly the best developer, I believe, to do that project,” White said. “I think they will be a good operator and a good neighbor. While we will monitor any future application closely, the general concept plan we’ve seen is something we can live with.”
Longboat Key Mayor Jack Duncan said he was pleased with the results and the record voter turnout.
“Longboat Key has spoken,” Duncan said. “I’m hopeful this means Ocean Properties can move forward in a way we can all work together to create a facility that’s state of the art and world class for this island.”