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Longboat Key Wednesday, Mar. 17, 2010 7 years ago

Owner asks commission to rezone historic property

by: Robin Hartill Managing Editor

The historic home at 5440 Gulf of Mexico Drive was built in 1946 by Longboat Key’s first mayor, Will LePage. But the oldest home on Gulf of Mexico Drive home now has termites and has been vacant for nearly 15 years. The building will be demolished next week.

Victor Levine, who has owned the property for more than 17 years, hopes to change the dual zoning of the property, which is classified as commercial for the front 400 feet and residential for the remaining 1,300 feet.

In a letter dated March 1, Levine asked the Longboat Key Town Commission to eliminate the commercial zoning and return the entire parcel to its original residential zoning. This would allow the five residential units on the back of the property to be spread over the entire parcel.

“Since the above is, in effect, a decrease in density from the Comprehensive Plan, this should be well within the Town Commission’s authority to approve,” Levine wrote.

According to Levine, the house was a residential home for 30 years, and part of the building was used as apartments for 10 years. But in the 1980s, the front of the property was zoned as commercial, while the back portion was zoned for five single-family homes.

A number of businesses operated on the parcel. Harry’s Continental Kitchens opened on the property in 1979 and operated there for two years before moving to 525 St. Judes. The Longboat Observer also opened in a rented room of the building, and an African gallery operated out of the building at one time. The most recent tenant was Coco’s Boutique.

Levine said that he believes the rezoning is necessary because there is an excess of commercial property on the Key. He said that the property has been for sale for the past 15 years and would be more likely to sell once the structure is demolished and the land is rezoned. As a commercial property, Levine said, attracting tenants is difficult, because the property is hidden from Gulf of Mexico Drive by a banyan tree.

“Nobody’s really survived for very long there,” he said. “It’s not really viable commercially.”

Levine hopes the commission will vote on his request within two to three months.

Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected]

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