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Longboat Key Monday, Mar. 8, 2021 1 year ago

Longboat Key commissioner George Spoll reflects on his tenure

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George Spoll served on the Longboat Key Town Commission from 2005-2011, and then again from 2017-2021.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

George Spoll plans on staying busy even when he steps down from the Longboat Key Town Commission later this month.

Spoll, 87, said he will contribute to the Longboat Key Revitalization Task Force, he was just reelected to a term on the Bay Isles Board of Directors and he also remains on the Federation of Condominiums Board.

“I want to be remembered as someone who has, as I say, been willing to plant trees that I will never sit under,” Spoll said.

Spoll could have chosen to run for a final three-year term as the District 2 commissioner, but decided against it. Penny Gold is set to take Spoll’s seat during the March 22 statutory meeting.

“As of the end of March, I am going to become, yet again, extremely proactive in that task force in its leadership because we are going to try to take a primary role in guiding the improvements and the development of the Town Center,” Spoll said. “So, that’s my future involvement to carry forth my enthusiasm for improving things that perhaps I will never see the implementation of.”

Spoll helped form the task force in March 2011.

“I stood up and suggested that I would like to form a task force called the Revitalization Task Force that would get into matters from a citizen’s point of view to either assist or guide development on the part of a developer on the Key so as to smooth the process out and avoid any mistakes, if at all possible,” Spoll said.

Spoll’s first term on the Longboat Key Town Commission went from 2005-2011. His second term was from 2017-2021.

Spoll served as mayor in 2010, 2018 and 2019. He also served as vice mayor in 2007, and on the town’s Planning and Zoning Board from 2003-2004.

One of Spoll’s first public service contributions to Longboat Key was dealing with the repercussions of when the town’s Holiday Inn shut down in 2003.

“When the Holiday [Inn] closed, it was a tremendous shock to the town,” Spoll said.

Spoll said the hotel and many condominiums on the island were built at a density far greater than what was permitted after the town down-zoned the Key in 1984. That meant any redevelopment would lose density to adhere to the new standards.

“They saw no possibility of being able to expand and take advantage of their site, and they had the opportunity to simply turn over the property to a developer for condominium use, take the money and run,” Spoll said.

Spoll explained the importance of having hotels and resorts to attract visitors on the Key.

“What happened as a result of my suggestion is the voters of this town approved 250 units to be used for the very purpose that I suggested, maintaining the ability for either properties to expand, and improve their properties under the right conditions, and thereby support the facilities such as restaurants, and what have you that we're leaving the Key,” Spoll said. “Condominiums are wonderful, but condominiums are occupied on Longboat Key, a very short time of year.

“In the summer months in the shoulder season, we go down to probably no more than 2,500 people on the Key itself. Although we grow to [more than] 20,000 in the winter months. And it is almost impossible for facilities to survive when there is a very low population on the Key.”

Spoll said hotels are occupied year-round because they can offer better rates to people who want to visit Longboat Key.

“Those are the people that go to your restaurants, shop at your flower shops, go to your card shops all of which used to exist,” Spoll said.

Spoll said his suggestion was effective in rebuilding the Hilton Hotel, the Zota Beach Resort and what was used to get permission to build the St. Regis project at the Colony property.

Although 2020 marked the first time in seven years Longboat Key’s property values decreased, overall they have steadily risen since the financial crisis of 2007-2008. Property values make up the majority of the town’s revenue.

The town is budgeting about $12,398,165 in property tax revenue for fiscal year 2021. The total makes up about 76% of the town’s total revenue of $16,318,241.

It is evident how Spoll’s professional background as a builder of homes, condominiums and commercial rehabilitation projects has helped in his role of public service. Spoll’s other contributions include helping the town better plan the locations of its shopping centers, improving regulations for town’s Building Department and working with former District 1 Commissioner Randy Clair to fix errors in the town’s insurance policies.

“I am really proud of the relationship that I’ve had with the people who work for the Longboat Key government,” Spoll said. “We have an outstanding group of people that work for our town. That includes the police, the firemen. Even though we’ve had battles through the years with the unions, everybody has always done the right thing for the Key.”

When Spoll gets some free time, he hopes to visit with his family at some point in the near future. He and his wife, Madelyn, moved to Longboat Key in January 1993.

“My family is remote,” Spoll said. “Hopefully, I will have an opportunity to visit them. Although…I suspect that my days of traveling a great deal are somewhat limited, but I am fortunate that my brain has survived intact.”

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Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

See All Articles by Mark

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