The Planning and Zoning Board and the Town Commission are scheduled to hear, and decide on, the application for developing the former site of the Colony before town elections.
Development at the site of the former Colony Beach & Tennis Resort could be approved before residents cast their ballots in March.
The Town Commission approved at its regular meeting Monday an expedited schedule for hearing the planned unit development and outline development plan, or PUD/ODP, as often referred to at these meetings, and final site plan.
If all goes as planned, commissioners could take a final vote on Unicorp National Developments’ application by March 16, four days before three contested Town Commission seat elections.
The Planning and Zoning Board and the Town Commission have both allocated a full day on two occasions to review the application for putting a 166-room hotel and 78 condominiums on the site of the former Colony Beach & Tennis Resort.
Both boards have the capacity to review the application as a whole, including its compliance with the comprehensive plan and intention of protecting the public interest.
Each also has the latitude to judge the application’s request for tourism units based on building height, off-street parking, open space, recreation space, stormwater management, water and land setbacks and zoning compliance.
But the nine departures from the town zoning codes — requested amnesty for not adhering to the zoning codes — will be subject to scrutiny.
Most contentious of all these departures, said Town Planner Maika Arnold, who has overseen this application for development since its inception, could be one asking for an increased allowance in commercial space.
Unicorp is asking that the town allow commercial space the size of 30% of the total floor area of the tourism units — zoning codes allow for 10%.
The developer has proposed 134,780 square feet of tourism space, allowing, by town codes, 13,478 square feet of commercial space. It wants 40,439 square feet.
That number accounts for more than 17,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 10,000-square-foot ballroom that grassroots organization Preserve Longboat has said is excessive.
A town-drafted ordinance for approving the PUD/ODP includes a few conditions for the meeting space, including that the hotel limit the number of guests for any event at the hotel to 425 people, Arnold said.
The hotel would also be required to collaborate with the town on an event management plan, subject to approval by the town manager, for any gathering of more than 250 people, Arnold said of the draft ordinance.
Unicorp is also hoping to use the increased commercial space to build an 11,100-square-foot spa, multiple restaurants, a lounge and a bar.
Other departures include shorter setbacks from adjacent properties, a paved path along the beachfront for emergency vehicles and allowance for greater visibility of the buildings from Gulf of Mexico Drive. The application also includes appeals for greater floor area and living space and reduced open space.
Arnold said none of the departures Unicorp seeks is “a clear denial” — “with the conditions of approval and limiting the number of guests and the fact that [Whittall] is developing under the four-and-a-half units per acre [allowed by town zoning codes]” — in the town’s recommendation to town boards.
Town staff recommended denying Unicorp’s zoning code change that would remove density reductions for developers seeking tourism units in the PUD process. Unicorp President Chuck Whittall withdrew his appeal to change the zoning codes after presenting the proposal to the town commission.