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Longboat Key Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009 10 years ago

My View

by: Bradford Saivetz

I am a professional engineer, now retired, formerly licensed to practice in Florida and other states and a fellow in the American Society of Civil Engineers. I earned my daily bread as designer and representative for developers who were involved in creating housing, commercial, industrial and recreational complexes on properties for which they petitioned the various governmental agencies.

My wife and I lived “behind the gates” at Islandside for about a dozen years during the time much of the construction at Islandside was accomplished. For several of those years, I also served as a delegate to and as a board member and president of the Longboat Key Association Inc., the owner of Longboat Club Road.

Islandside is a Planned Unit Development (PUD). The theory for PUDs is this: The owner of the property submits an Outline Development Plan for transferring the total allowable density for it to specific parcels designated as residential and commercial. The remainder of the original property is designated as recreational and/or open space and has no density allowance for units. This recreation and/or open space, and how it is enhanced, is what contributes to the value of the residential land.

The desired density is then distributed by the original owner, as it pleases, to the individual parcels designated as residential and/or commercial. The value (and purchase price) for each residential parcel is a function of the number of units granted to it by the original owner. The subsequent owners of these residential parcels have no right to build any more units than the original owner had granted to it, nor can the recreation and/or open space be built upon other than consistent with the designated uses shown on the approved plan.

Purchasers of property within this PUD, and financing entities, can expect that the approved Outline Development Plan will be inviolate as to the designation of the various land usages shown thereon and that the total number of units would be only those granted by Arvida.

Arvida and its successor, Arvida/JMB Partners — and not the town of Longboat Key — had the sole right to grant permission for the maximum number of units to be built on each residential parcel. It may be that the total number of units that mathematically could be built on the residential land was 1,588, but Arvida, in its wisdom, chose not to allow that many.

Arvida typically inserted into its Special Warranty Deeds, the following:

“Grantee by the acceptance and recording of this deed acknowledges understanding that the aforesaid property is located within ‘Longboat Key Club,’ which is a planned unit development being developed and pursuant to the provisions of Resolution No. 76-7 adopted by the town of Longboat Key on May 5, 1976, as amended by resolution No. 80-21. Grantee further understands that the density of said development is limited by the aforesaid resolution and amendments thereto.”

However, in the deed giving ownership of the Islandside golf and tennis facilities to Key Club Associates, Limited Partnership April 30, 1990 (Book 2207 Page 1332), Arvida/JMB Partners added the following sentence to the aforesaid paragraph: “Accordingly, Grantor is not hereby transferring to Grantee the right to construct any dwelling units on the above described property.” Sale price: about $10 million.

It’s only my opinion, but at the time of its sale to Key Club Associates, if Arvida and its legal consultants ever considered that another 696 units could be built on its remaining land in Islandside, rest assured that there would have been a much different price set on the property. I do not believe that Arvida was being generous or altruistic.

What’s more, I go back to 2004, when Key Club Associates’ then-operating partners were Shane Eagan and Tom Rasmussen. They petitioned the town to obtain approval for some housing units near where the old Islandside tennis courts stood. According to the Jan. 9, 2004, Longboat Observer:
“Eagan and Rasmussen are hoping to invest $20 million into the club’s grounds. They want to tear out 45 aging golf holes and replace them with 45 newly designed holes; eliminate one of two tennis complexes and build one, larger center with a new clubhouse and snack bar; and they want to expand the club’s existing fitness center to include expanded exercise space and a full-service spa. And they want to finance this with the development of 20 single-family homes on the club grounds, each selling for between $5.5 million and $6.4 million.”

Rasmussen was also quoted saying: “We’re very willing to do within reason what the master association requirements are and what makes them feel comfortable. But the mindset that we are our predecessor — developers — is not right. We’re not developers. We’re developing a one-time piece as the financial engine for the improvement of the club.”

It would appear that, today, this development is still only the new and larger “financial engine” and that no real development is actually planned. But, mea culpa, I confess to being paranoid.

What if Key Club Associates ultimately obtains the approvals for its project? Using L’Ambiance’s raw land-per-unit price as a basis, this would amount to more than $26 million. Approving the Key Club’s plan for the recreational property — magically making something from nothing and creating this massive jump in value — would be handout enough.

My wife and I chose this community and its ambience as our own Golden Pond. As it was — not as we wanted to change it. And taking the Islandside golf course out of play for what may be the remainder of my life and my capability for playing is not a happy thought. And, if this proposal is now the only way for properly maintaining the golfing facility, what will the Key Club want next?

Is Harbourside to be the next “financial engine”?

Are all PUDs at risk of similar upheaval?

I humbly request that there be more clarity in the facts and that the Key Club’s promises be reconstituted as the Key Club’s guarantees.

I must compliment the Key Club for its ingenuity in proposing and promoting this project. This certainly gives new life to Machiavelli’s words: Make no small plans for they have no power to stir the soul.

Bradford Saivetz is a resident of Longboat Key and a fellow in the American Society of Civil Engineers.

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