How would you spend $8 million in building fees?
If three proposed projects come to fruition, more than $6 million could flow into the town’s land acquisition fund. But with the island essentially built out and Bayfront Park upgrades mostly funded, what will the town do with the potential influx of cash?
It depends on whom you ask.
Town Manager Dave Bullock has earmarked $200,000 of the roughly $2.7 million that’s currently in the fund for design and engineering work on the proposed cultural facility for a town center concept. Most town leaders and staff agree the funding could be a major driver of the partnership between the town and Ringling College of Art and Design, as well as the creation and maintenance of the rest of a town center.
Developers of residential and tourism properties pay into the fund, which was established in 1980, based on the value and square footage of the land on which they are building, as well as the number of units included the new construction project.
“Developers and landowners, including builders of residences on single-family lots, must provide
for parks and open space,” states the town code.
The fund can be used for the acquisition of land and capital improvements of existing land, according to Senior Planner Steve Schield. The ordinance also specifically identifies “land specified for town purposes” among its uses.
“It’s available for any type of open space improvements that we want to do,” Bullock said. “I can’t say there’s a specific five-year plan, but I think the bulk of it is going to end up in the town center properties and improvements to that, and that will start to heat up a little bit later this year in terms of planning, building and understanding what the site implications are.”
The Zota Beach Resort, which will add 85 more tourism units to the existing 102-room former Hilton, was responsible for the largest contribution to the land acquisition fund in at least 12 years. Owner Ocean Properties Ltd. paid $2.2 million into the fund, bringing the account balance from $462,000 in 2014 to more than $2.6 million the following year.
The fund balance has remained around $2.5 million over the last two years. But with referenda for the proposed 120-unit Floridays hotel and Whitney Beach Plaza residential development of up to 18 units coming later this year, as well as the eventual Colony Beach & Tennis Resort development, the fund balance could triple.
Floridays could add about $2 million to the fund, while the Colony could add more than $4 million,
according to preliminary capital budget documents presented to commissioners in May.
Of course, there is still uncertainty surrounding the projects: They’re contingent on voters approving them via referenda, market conditions, and in the case of the Colony, myriad legal issues.
The fund’s biggest expenditure in the last decade was the $1.5 million purchase of nearly 3 acres at 592 Bay Isles Road for the town center concept.
“There’s not a lot of land left to buy, so we’re really kind of in the improvement mode now, and that’s where built-out communities should be putting their resources,” Bullock said.
The Longboat Observer reached out to department heads and current and past commissioners and for a rough wish list. While many did not respond or declined to give a specific recommendation due to the uncertain nature of the fund, to the right are a few possibilities they listed.If three proposed projects come to fruition, more than $6 million could flow into the town’s land acquisition fund. But with the island essentially built out and Bayfront Park upgrades mostly funded, what will the town do with the potential influx of cash?