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Longboat Key Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009 8 years ago

P&Z suggests revisions

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

It’s not decision time just yet.

The Planning and Zoning Board hasn’t made up its mind on whether to recommend the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s Islandside renovation and expansion project to the Town Commission, but it agreed the application can be approved.

At its Tuesday, Nov. 17 public hearing (the sixth day of public hearings) at Temple Beth Israel, the eight board members in attendance voted 7-1 to move forward with discussing the project. Planning board member and L’Ambiance resident Morton Siegler was the dissenting vote.

The board also began revising the club’s $400 million project.

The most significant modification the planning board made was voting 4-3 to allow the two nine-story, golf-course condominiums to be smaller in size on the ground and be built as high as the tallest existing Islandside condominium, which is L’Ambiance at 144 feet tall.

Planning Board Vice Chairman Allen Hixon proposed the height modification, which reduced ground area, increasing open space and increased building coverage by boosting the height of the buildings proposed north of Longboat Club Road.

“It makes the buildings less dense and less massive,” Hixon said.

The planning board also agreed the Inn on the Pass hotel could be 75 feet tall on the southern parcel, as proposed, and that the club could ask for the requested 132 units on the north parcel and 196 units on the southern parcel.

During discussions, board member George Symanski Jr. urged the board to consider asking the club to donate $3 million to the town’s Bayfront Park Recreation Center project, in exchange for the club’s elimination of 14 tennis courts at Islandside.

It was agreed, however, that town staff will produce a report for the planning board that shows how the town could charge an open-space, land-acquisition fee when building permits are pulled for the project. The club, however, would have to agree to pay the fee, which was waived for Islandside developments when Arvida donated Quick Point Preserve to the town years ago.

Town Attorney David Persson told board members it’s possible to recommend approval as long as any conditions the board wishes to impose on the applicant to protect the town, such as traffic and recreational-space conditions, are agreed upon.

The board also agreed by an 8-0 vote that the town has the right to transfer density to other parcels within the Gulf-planned development, refuting the claims by Islandside Property Owners Coalition attorneys that unused density vanishes when it’s not used behind the gates.

Meanwhile, Key Club General Manager Michael Welly agreed to come back to the board with written assurance that the club’s five-star hotel will be built, after Symanski said he was “a no vote” if the hotel were not built and/or not moved up in the club’s development phasing schedule.

“I’m not going down the road of approving something without knowing the hotel is going to be built,” Symanski said.

Welly told Symanski club officials would entertain the notion of a written guarantee, and he also suggested the club could offer a payment of non-refundable, building-permit fees for the hotel, which he called crucial to the overall project.

Not every planning board member, however, is on board with the project.

Siegler told the board in a prepared statement that “the negative aspects (of the proposed project) strongly outweigh the positive.”

And board member Phineas Alpers called the condominium buildings “too massive” and urged them “to be cut down.”

Planning board member Pat Zunz disagreed.

“There is no one central place where tourism has been developed on the Key,” Zunz said. “The planned unit development allows a lot of flexibility.”

The planning board also reviewed a list of 44 potential conditions proposed by town staff and the applicant, which include mandating that everything from the renovated golf course to the new hotel always be restricted to one universal owner.

The planning board will meet at 9 a.m. Friday, Dec. 4 to review town staff’s revised list of conditions and possibly make a recommendation on the project.

Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].

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