Will construction begin this year? The path is clear but littered with obstacles.
It's been almost eight years since the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort shut its doors.
The resort has since been overrun by sand, beach plants, animals and a healthy heaping of disappointment. But Chuck Whittall and his Orlando-based development group, Unicorp National Developments Inc., are determined to change that.
But he’s got significant road bumps ahead. The first is an amendment to the town's zoning code. Without that, his application for a Planned Unit Development to redevelop the resort won't go anywhere.
A PUD allows developers a measure of flexibility not available in conventional zones, something Unicorp hopes to take advantage of. But town rules limit density in such an arrangement to 4.5 units per acre at the site of the former Colony. Unicorp wants six, which the property is zoned for without the benefit of a PUD. Unicorp is also seeking the town’s 165 remaining units in its tourism pool
Longboat's Planning and Zoning Board in December approved the zoning request, passing it along to the Town Commission for its consideration, a public hearing and its first vote, as early as Feb. 6. If it passes there, it would also need to pass a second vote.
In the meantime, Whittall is scheduled to appear before the Planning and Zoning Board Feb. 20 for consideration of his development application. If all of his appeals to the town are approved on schedule, both his development application and zoning amendment could be heard for final approval in March.
Also on the horizon in 2018, some kind of decision with the condo owners.
In the fall, the Colony Beach & Tennis Club Association “revised and restated” its development agreement with Unicorp National Developments Inc. Part of that agreement was the possibility of a court-ordered dissolution of the condo association, rather than by owner consensus, said Jay Yablon, president of the Colony Beach & Tennis Club Association.
Florida law requires 95% of unit owners agree to dissolve a condo association; 65% of Colony owners have agreed to the redevelopment plan with Unicorp National Developments Inc. and the other 35% “has shown no sign to date to be prepared to join the rest of the owners,” Yablon said.
The two entities have been negotiating the new plan — which offers $170,000 a unit, plus $100,000 for midrises and an extra $200,000 for beachfront dwellings — for about six months, Yablon said. In December 2016, Unicorp paid $165,000 for two units, $84,000 for two others and $65,000 for two others.
If all the approvals and other factors fall into place, Unicorp hopes to launch construction by the fall of 2018. Planned: 102 residential condominiums — ranging from 2,700 square feet to 7,000 square feet — a 166-room St. Regis Hotel, a 15,700-square-foot spa, two restaurants, a lounge and bar, a 10,000-square-foot ballroom, 6,700 square feet of meeting rooms, and 2,750 square feet of boardrooms.
And while there is some public support for the plan, public concern about the ballroom and meeting spaces and their connection to additional island traffic remain.