Skip to main content
Longboat Key Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010 12 years ago

A time for leadership


Ditto to Longboat Key resident Bob Gault and former Mayor Ron Johnson.

We print their commentaries on this page because of their cogent messages.

Town commissioners should take heed. Delay the process anymore with requests for more and more concessions, and the commissioners will surely kill this project and Longboat Key’s future as one of Florida’s premier communities.

Cheers to Gault. We print his letter in large type for emphasis. Zoning can change the opportunity for increased value, but it’s the ingenuity, work and capital of individuals who increase value.

Meanwhile, former Mayor Johnson explicitly illustrates with first-hand examples what happens when you reinvest and when you don’t.

The cliches are apropos: They cannot see the forest through the trees. Death by 1,000 cuts. While each commissioner postures with his specific interest, boring in, scraping over every detail, you can be sure the club owners’ enthusiasm is waning. If only there were a leader on the dais who could lead and push the process forward with a sense of urgency.

If Mayor Lee Rothenberg is the leader his supporters say he is, the outcome of this overly drawn-out and sometimes farcical process rests largely on him. He can continue to drag it out, or he can lead his colleagues to committing to make a decision with haste. Either will be their legacy: obstructionists who mired the town’s future in a regulatory swamp or visionaries who embraced an a future with an upward trajectory.


Reminder to the Longboat Key town commissioners:

At the Feb. 12 Town Commission meeting regarding the Key Club project, it was suggested that the Town Commission needs to know the projected appreciated land value “the commission is creating and gifting to Loeb Partners” if the club project is approved.
First, why is this just coming up now? Second, this is not asked of any other project applicant, and, most important, the Town Commission DOES NOT “create” or “gift” increased value by approving business investment improvement projects.

The investor creates the value; it is his idea/concept, property and equity capital that he is investing and putting at risk!

It could be asked: What value is CREATED BY THE PROJECT to the benefit of the public good? Fair enough, but not just to leverage some other benefit for the town and penalize the applicant that is always risking losing the entire project.

Fortunately, the Town Commission voted down this time- and money-consuming proposal.
The Town Commission needs to stick to its responsibility of protecting the citizens whom commissioners work for in governing within the rule of law and the charter and allow variances to zoning codes and the comprehensive plan where it benefits the public good.

Please stop trying to micro-manage beyond your purview and facilitate a successful outcome for the public good, not just the relatively few NIMBY protesters. Get on with it!
Also, please don’t manage this process with a focus on avoiding a lawsuit. Do the right thing.

Bob Gault,
Longboat Key


Choice: decline or resurgence

Editor’s Note: Former Longboat Key Mayor Ron Johnson delivered remarks similar to the comments below to the Town Commission last week. He shows explicitly what Longboat Key residents will face depending on the choices town commissioners make on the Longboat Key Club’s proposed redevelopment.

I have two personal experiences that relate to the Longboat Key Club situation that relate directly to property values and what can happen to the values under both circumstances.

First circumstance
In the late 1980s, I bought a new custom condo in The Landings, a private, gated community in Fort Myers on the Caloosahatchee River. At the time, it was the Key Club of today — lush landscaping, challenging golf course, 250 acres, the largest deep-water marina, 192 slips — in Southwest Florida then and today, new grand clubhouse, a well-known popular tennis facility, multiple swimming pools, etc. A great place to live.

After about eight years, I noticed that acquaintances were moving out. I asked why and they said they wanted to live in the newer resorts being developed in Fort Myers. I thought that was strange; the Landings still looked good to me, so I forgot about this exodus of families.

Eight more years went by, and my circumstances required that I relocate to Tampa. So I talked to the Realtor handling The Landings sales about listing my condo. She said that for the past several years they had had 200 or so homes and condos for sale and that they were only selling 35 to 40 each year. In other words, people were standing in line to sell and few were standing in a line to buy into The Landings.

I finally understood what had happened. From the time I bought in, the construction of new homes stopped and the facilities remained just as they were. While still attractive, they were clearly aging, and it was not hard to see this when you took a critical look around.

I did sell my condo and did not realize the value I felt was appropriate. How tough it was to face this circumstance after fooling myself about the value of upgrading of facilities.

The Landings later resumed construction, adding many new homes, not condos, added a small, private marina for the high-end waterfront homes, added a new clubhouse and upgraded the marina facilities, golf course and entranceway. This renewal effort put the place back on the map as a fine, luxury gated community, and home values climbed for every owner.

Second circumstance
After Fort Myers, we relocated to the Tampa area, selecting another premier gated community, The Saddlebrook Resort, featuring golf and tennis. It was northeast of Tampa about 15 miles.

Saddlebrook was the nicest such community around Tampa at that time. It had been in the ground for many years, but construction of new, fine custom homes was continuing at a slow but steady rate. So we had a new home built for our family.

The resort was 540 acres with large amounts of green areas, beautifully landscaped, two Arnold Palmer golf courses, world headquarters to the Arnold Palmer Golf Academies, renowned tennis school with 45 courts, a half-million-gallon swimming pool and a significant convention center.

Several years after we moved in, the owner announced that he was going to renovate the facility, enlarge the convention center, upgrade the golf courses, tennis center, etc. A group of owners got together and formed a loosely knit IPOC-type committee and met with the owner. We presented our objections to his plans — virtually the same complaints we are hearing today about the Key Club renovation.

He listened for five minutes and then took over the meeting. He said he had conceived the resort, arranged financing to build it, constructed it and managed it. He said that for his resort to maintain its place in the highly competitive Florida resort marketplace his plans were imperative.

He then said that he had not invited any of us to live in his community, but if we did not like his expansion plans he did invite us to move away. He said he was going ahead with his plans. The meeting was over!

When it came time to retire, sell our home and move to Longboat Key, our home sold in two weeks and at a price worthy of it. The resort improvements made by the owner paid off for us and all other homeowners in Saddlebrook.

The Key Club fully understands the value of improving its facilities for its own good and the good of all the other owners behind the Islandside gates, as well as all the other homes on Longboat Key. Islandside Property Owners Coalition members simply have their heads in the sand, as I did, and will someday pay a significant price should they prevail.

That will affect my family also.

Commissioners, let’s get on with this worthy Key Club project.

Ronald Johnson is a former mayor and commissioner of Longboat Key.

Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer's new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. Be a Newsie.

Related Stories