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Longboat Key Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018 2 years ago

Preserve Longboat seeks a few tweaks to Colony development plan

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Preserve Longboat President David Lapovsky says Unicorp's development plan is close to what the group seeks on the site of the former Colony.
by: Bret Hauff Staff Writer

Preserve Longboat formed “spontaneously” in reaction to Unicorp’s initial plan to develop the site of the former Colony Beach & Tennis Resort, said the group’s president, David Lapovsky.

The group most recently rallied opposition to Unicorp’s application for a zoning-code change the company’s president, Chuck Whittall, recently withdrew.

The Longboat Observer asked Lapovsky about what happens now.

What does Chuck Whittall’s concession of his zoning code change mean to you and Preserve Longboat?

We see Whittall’s withdrawal of the text amendment as a positive first step, but we never said that the only issue that we had with the Colony plans was the text amendment. There are other concerns that we have with the plan that go well beyond the 24 condominiums that were affected by that. So it’s a good first step. We appreciate the fact that he listened to the community, but we would expect to see some other changes to the current site plan application as well.

Is there anything else that needs to be changed to make this the best development for the island?

We’ve heard from a lot of people, and we’ve seen letters in your publication and others that there’s tremendous concern about a conference center of the size that’s proposed for the property. A single 10,000-square-foot ballroom as well as more than 7,000 square feet of other meeting rooms is outsized for a barrier island like ours that is served by a single, two-lane road. We’ve done some analysis of that and find that most St. Regis hotels have ballrooms of the size that the guest rooms can fill the ballrooms. In this case, the guest rooms, with two people in every room, would fill about half of the ballroom. Which means that the other half of the ballroom would be coming up Gulf of Mexico Drive, or down Gulf of Mexico Drive, to get there.

We’re also concerned about the granting of all the remaining tourism units to a single development. At the same time, their 237 tourism units are simply made to go away. At present, there are 402 potential tourism units with the town. The 237 that are from the Colony site as well as the 165 remaining in the tourism pool that the voters approved nine years ago. When this is complete, 237 of those 402 will have disappeared altogether. And that doesn’t seem to be what the voters would have approved back when they approved it at referendum.

And there will be no change to the plan based on the fact that the text amendment request was withdrawn. 

What’s your bottom line for accepting any development on the site of the former Colony?

Most importantly, we would like the conference center to be about the size that, for most events, it would be filled by the hotel rooms on the site and wouldn’t require people to come from other places to use that facility. And I said for most events. Nothing can be universally applied in that regard.

We’d like to see a full conversation on the implications of granting all the tourism units in this way. If the commission sees fit to do that, we’d like to understand why in light of the vote of several years ago.

I’m a Longboat Key Staff Reporter. I write stories about how decisions and events affect the island, its leaders and its citizens. I received a bachelor's degree in journalism from Emerson College, where I wrote for The Boston Globe. Reach me at 941-366-3468 ext. 333.

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