+ Project approval strayed from Comprehensive Plan
The commission’s approval of the Longboat Key Club project was made contrary to the analysis and findings of the Planning Director who stated that the project was inconsistent with the Comp Plan and that the application for concept plan approval should be denied. Thus the commission has placed itself in the unique but dubious role of planner-in-chief while dispensing with the principles upon which the profession is based. Discretion in land use decision-making does rest with the local legislative body, however, there is a point where discretion becomes arbitrary, if not reckless, and certainly vulnerable to a lawsuit for being so and for straying so far from the Comp Plan.
The applicant acceded to the wishes of the Town Commission and played a game of musical chairs by moving the buildings around as long as the number of chairs, in this case unit numbers and square footage, wasn’t appreciably reduced. All this in the name of project viability, a claim that stood uncontested by the commission and taken on faith (in the absence of facts which the developer refused to share it could only be faith). The $400 million cost figure seemed to be a constant even with reductions in the construction program. Yet while costs were constant, the revenue projection was portrayed as speculative and not worth the paper it would be printed on (then why print it?). Of course the economic viability of a private development is not one of the principles stated in the Comp Plan and is not the basis for consideration of an application. Meanwhile, in this game of musical chairs with several last-minute revisions to the plan, barely analyzed, it was the public who lost the first seat.
IPOC (Islandside Property Owners Coalition) compromised itself by accepting a plan that removed residential from the north parcel but established little in the way of principle for accepting the rest of the project other than pushing/keeping development away from Islandside beach properties and focused on the south parcel to the detriment of other property owners living at Lighthouse Point, for example — thus displacing the NIMBY to thy neighbor. More to the point, if indeed the entire development proposal was inconsistent with the Comp Plan as its legal and consultant team contended, then how could any element of this proposal be acceptable other than upgrading existing uses such as the golf course, golf club and health-club facility?
Longboat Key is too small to absorb poorly designed projects that may be detrimental to the quality of life of the community. This isn’t Manhattan where even the mediocre project can be absorbed if not hidden among the magnificent buildings and streetscapes. There is a good Islandside project to be had but we are not there yet because we as a community have not defined what is good. Until we do so there are no winners — we all lose. Maybe Longboat Key will get a second chance to do this project right the first time.
+ Scheyer overstated Moorings dispute parallels
Although there may be some superficial similarities, Mr. (Stuart) Scheyer’s claim of parallels with the (Longboat Key Club) Moorings dispute is extremely overstated. The Moorings dispute had to do with broken, privately negotiated agreements between two parties, whereas the club’s expansion plan is related to major inconsistencies with town ordinances that will have negative repercussions for residents throughout Longboat Key.
The legal challenges that the (Islandside Property Owners) Coalition raises have a strong legal basis, and we are confident that the plan that was approved by the commission will be found to be inconsistent with the senior document governing land use, the town’s Comprehensive Plan. The town Planning and Zoning director and town attorney have both expressed concerns that the plan is inconsistent. Consequently, our appeal can hardly be dismissed as inappropriate or harmful. Our goal is the legitimate legal defense of the town code and the rights of property owners who have relied on it. The real harm will be done to Longboat Key by the dismantling of its zoning code, which has helped to make Longboat Key one of the most desirable communities in the country.
I also question the objectivity of Mr. Scheyer’s claims. Could it be possible that supporting the club’s Islandside project was a condition of the settlement between the club and the Moorings? If so, the motivation of Mr. Scheyer may be less due to conviction than obligation. Nevertheless, my following rebuttal to Mr. Scheyer should be noted:
• Grand Bay was built on a planned development site that was already zoned for multi-family development as were the properties on the beach at Islandside. The property the club proposes to develop is primarily recreational property. A more appropriate analogy would be if the club proposes to develop the unused density in Bay Isles amounting to some 800-plus dwelling units. What would Scheyer’s view be then?
• Let’s debunk the club’s relentless spin machine once and for all when it comes to its “willingness to compromise.” Despite all the PR, the bottom line is that it has reduced the overall density by only 22 units, or 5.9%. Is this Mr. Scheyer’s idea of the extra mile? Sounds more like a few yards and a cloud of dust.
• When it comes to “frozen positions,” this certainly applies to the club, not IPOC. We have proposed two alternative plans that were rejected, and we agreed to the plan that was recommended and passed by the commission on first reading.
• Inflexible and dogmatic? Has Mr. Scheyer forgotten that representatives of the Key Club have publicly stated that unless they get everything they now propose that they will walk away, even refusing to reduce the height of one of the villas on the Pass by one story when this was suggested by one of the commissioners?
Mr. Scheyer contends that “support within the gates is shrinking” and that IPOC is “an extremely small group no longer representing the majority.” Yet, Mr. Scheyer offers no evidence to back up his claims. Where are the 4,000 supporters the club maintains it has? Has it provided the names of these supposed supporters? IPOC has offered to provide the names of its financial supporters, comprising more than 400 individual contributions, to a designated third party for verification. Is the club willing to do likewise to validate this claim?
President of the Islandside Property Owners Coalition, LLC
+ Scheyer’s My View made suppositions
I refer to last week’s My View by Stuart Scheyer. He states that the vast majority of Longboat Key residents support the downsized project and are relieved that the battle is over.
At the end of the next paragraph he says that Islandside Property Owners Coalition no longer reflects the views of the majority.
How can he know these things? Has he had his own referendum?
Statements such as these are pure hyperbole and have no value whatsoever, other than to try to further the Key Club agenda and convince the rest of us that the massive construction project is in some way a good idea.
+ I agree with Scheyer: It’s time to move on
I congratulate our neighbor Stuart Scheyer for his courageous expression.
I do not know him personally, nor do I know Bob White. I believe the Islandside Property Owners Coalition substantially influenced the product that was approved by the Town Commission. I agree with Scheyer that it is time to move on!!
+ Building fee study was unnecessary
Do I have it right: We had to go to California to get a $27,355 study on how to make the Building Department raise more money? (The study’s) first result (was that the building department) should make $5 million a year … no?
How about $2.5 million … no? Back to the drawing board, but this, of course, will cost more money. And this took 25 months?
But now, Finance Director Tom Kelley says we really don’t need it. But Town Manager Bruce St. Denis tells us: “Oh yes we do.”
All this to raise our building fees? Please, Mr. St. Denis, no more favors.