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Longboat Key Sunday, Sep. 19, 2021 2 months ago

Longboat Key's planning board advances St. Regis revisions

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Town Commissioners in October will have final say on a series of changes Unicorp wants for condo, resort plan.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

It took the Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board about seven hours last week to unanimously recommend approval of changes to the Residences at the St. Regis Longboat Key Resort proposal, sending the revisions to the Town Commission for final consideration in October. 

“Our intent on everything we did was to maximize the look, the aesthetics and experience with guests,” Unicorp National Developments CEO Chuck Whittall told the board.

The Town Commission in March 2018 voted 6-1 in support of Unicorp's original plan, with then-Commissioner George Spoll dissenting. 

On Friday, Unicorp CEO Chuck Whittall appeared before the Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board.

Unicorp proposed these changes to the previously approved plan: 

  • A reduction in residential units  from 78 to 69
  • Two of the 69 condominium units would be available for occupancy for less than 30 consecutive calendar days or one calendar month, whichever is less
  • An increase (35,173 square feet) in overall building footprint
  • An increase (1,001.5 square feet) in the total accessory commercial area
  • A 52-space reduction in parking
  • A four-seat reduction within the hotel’s accessory commercial spaces;
  • A number of amendments to the buildings’ setbacks; and
  • The addition of accessory structures (including an event pavilion and several beach-related structures).

“We’ve got in extreme detail all the reasons under their code for supporting what we requested, so they did make the right decisions today,” said Brenda Patten, who has legally represented Unicorp throughout the approval and purchase process.

Once the 17.6-acre land is developed, it could add about $1.5 million to the town’s tax revenue.

The P&Z Board approved Unicorp’s request for a 41.7-foot waterfront setback for the proposed Monkey Bar and a 75.3-foot setback for the event pavilion. Town staff had recommended denying both departure requests.

It means the Monkey Bar will be 108.3 feet east of the erosion control line and the event pavilion will be 73.9 feet from the ECL.

“(It) would make very little difference,” Patten said. “If you had a hurricane, I don’t think the storm is going to care if the structure is another 40 or 50 or 60 or 70 feet back. It won’t make any difference.”

Patten also provided maps and aerial views showing how some of the old Colony structures were closer ECL than what Unicorp is proposing.

“You can see that all of those structures are farther seaward than the event pavilion and the Monkey Bar will be,” Patten said.

Plus, Whittall said his team has verbal approval with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection about the proposed location of the Monkey Bar, but it is contingent upon the town.

“We’ve been (in) a lot of communication with the state,” Whittall said. “Until we get the approval from the town of Longboat Key, they won’t give us formal approval.”

Unicorp and the town also crafted an agreement about when condo owners can begin moving in, because the residential buildings on the south side of the property will likely take less time to finish than the hotel building on the north end. 

“No certificate of occupancy for any residential unit shall be issued until the hotel tower exterior is completed and fully enclosed,” the agreement reads.

P&Z Chair David Green said he wanted to respect what previous members of the Town Commission and P&Z Board had approved in 2018, but said 2021 is a different world.

“I'm very persuaded by the fact that there's every financial and commercial reason for them to be highly incentivized to get this done as quickly as possible,” Green said. “And I don't think our local government needs to be concerned about that.”

Town Commissioners will hold a pair of public hearings to consider the Planning and Zoning Board's recommendations for approval on Oct. 6 and Oct. 20.

Mayor Ken Schneier and District 2 Commissioner Penny Gold were among those in attendance at Friday’s public meeting.

If commission approvals are granted, building permits would follow. 

Unicorp has planned a formal, invitation-only, ground-breaking ceremony on Oct. 25, less than a week after the Town Commission could grant final OKs.

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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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