Bob White, the leader of the Islandside Property Owners Coalition (IPOC), and I have walked parallel paths. In fact, the parallel is so close that you might say that he is walking in my shoes.
Let me explain: No one is more familiar with a Michael Welly/Longboat Key Club fight than I am. The parallels here are remarkable. Longboat Key Moorings is a condominium association that was developed by Bill Vernon. I was president of the Moorings for seven years both before and after there was a transition to owner control of the association. But Vernon retained some developer rights and ownership of the adjacent office building and restaurant. After several years of mutual cooperation, Vernon sold his interests to the Key Club, which proceeded to overreach and reduce the rights of condominium owners. A moribund Moorings Board, which was installed after the original board retired, made an unacceptable agreement with the club.
I led a small group of owners to form an ad hoc committee (LBK Moorings Slip Owners LLC), which hired Michael Furen to represent us (sound familiar?). We proceeded with a recall election of board members, who subsequently were forced to resign. The owners installed a new board to negotiate with the club, and it was contentious. Accusations and lawsuits flew everywhere. As reality set in on both sides, the atmosphere changed. We could have continued to walk the path of confrontation, but to what avail? As leaders of the committee, we consulted with our owners for guidance. To everyone’s credit, a compromise was achieved and peace has benefited the Moorings, slip owners and the club.
Personally, I am a longtime resident of Longboat Key, who still owns property in the Moorings and lives in Grand Bay. I am in Longboat Key every month throughout the year and originally was just as concerned about the size of the club expansion as IPOC members. I supported their opposition. But I remembered that most projects are much larger in anticipation than they are in reality. Who remembers the concern about the banquet addition to the Harbourside clubhouse? The cry was that it was too big and there would be massive traffic jams, which never occurred. I also remember being on my boat in the Moorings and watching construction of “massive” Building Four in Grand Bay just to the north of me. This newest of the buildings in Grand Bay is taller and half the distance to my slip than the club expansion is to L’Ambiance. “Too big” then became “I don’t even notice it” now. So it is with most projects.
Let’s get back to the present. I am generally pleased that the commission finally approved the project. My own concerns have been minimized by the reductions in size and repositioning. Welly and the club, along with their New York and London backers, have walked the extra mile to compromise. In fact, they did it four times! The vast majority of Longboat Key residents support the downsized project and are relieved that the battle is over. The benefits to our isle far outweigh any downside.
Our world suffers from too many frozen positions with endless accusations and acrimony. Some people remain too focused on the battle and lose touch with the common good. Although the club has moved in a positive and accommodative direction, IPOC’s rhetoric remains inflexible and dogmatic. Support within the gates is shrinking. The idea of raising another $250,000 to continue a distasteful fight is a wakeup call to many who formerly supported IPOC. This is a remarkable display of arrogance, entitlement and elitism by an extremely small group that no longer reflects the views of the majority.
It’s time for White and the owners within the gates to be proud of what they have accomplished and let the club move ahead. Further legal battles will be harmful to Longboat Key and ultimately discredit IPOC.
Hopefully, White and his fellow leaders will also consult with their owners, as we did. Thoughtful owners will join the majority, inside and outside the gates, who now support the project. This is not a game where the goal is winning at all costs. Winning must be for all involved, not for the destruction of one side. Reasonable change for the benefit of Longboat must be encouraged.
This is where our parallel paths reach a fork in the road. The Moorings committee and owners chose the path of compromise and conciliation. Now is the time for IPOC owners to do the same and retake control. Let your leaders know.
Stuart Scheyer is a former president of the Longboat Key Moorings Board and current Key Moorings owner. He lives in Grand Bay.