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Update: Key Club pushes project approval

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  • | 4:00 a.m. October 28, 2009
  • Longboat Key
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If the town of Longboat Key rejects the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s proposed $400 million Islandside redevelopment and expansion plan, the club’s property will deteriorate, property values Key-wide will fall and jobs and businesses will continue to contract.

That was the primary pitch made Wednesday, Oct. 21 and Thursday, Oct. 22 by Longboat Key Club and Resort attorney John Patterson and the club’s expert witnesses who spoke on behalf of the club at the Planning and Zoning Board Islandside hearings at Temple Beth Israel.

The club is proposing to construct a new Rees Jones-designed golf course; a new clubhouse; a 196-room, five-star hotel with an additional 34 units to be used either for tourism or luxury residences; a new meeting center; two villa townhomes with a total of 10 units; two condominium buildings with 66 units each; a new wellness center with enhanced spa-and-fitness facilities; and other recreational amenities for club members and guests.

“We are proposing a $400 million, world-class redevelopment of Longboat Key,” Patterson said.

Referencing Planning, Zoning and Building Director Monica Simpson’s presentation, in which she reported her staff did not recommend the project as presented, Patterson said: “We are coming to you now to ask for amendments to the club’s Gulf-planned development, just like 20 other applicants have done in the past to amend this same development,” Patterson said. “We believe what we are presenting is well within your power to approve.”

About 350 Longboat Key residents, town officials and business owners filled the temple last Wednesday for the first of two days of testimony. Less than half that number came back for the second day of hearings.
Many of the people in attendance were either wearing “I Support the Club” badges or “Can the Massive Plan” stickers.

Testimony from the opposition, primarily representatives of the Islandside Property Owners Coalition, was postponed until the hearing resumes Nov. 5. Planning board members agreed to delay an expected three-hour presentation from IPOC’s attorneys when it was apparent there wouldn’t be enough time last week.

Speaking on behalf of the Longboat Key Club and Resort, Dr. Hank Fishkind, economist/principal with Fishkind & Associates, didn’t mince words in his characterization of Longboat Key.

In general, he said, Longboat Key “is in a serious state of decline.” And, he said if the Key Club’s $400 million proposed redevelopment and expansion plan is nixed, Longboat residents can expect the downward trend to continue.

The planning department will make a recommendation about the project to the Town Commission next month.

The following is a detailed account of the first two days of public hearings regarding the project.

In your own words

Here is a sampling of letters to the Editor we received since the public hearing last week.

I attended both hearings on Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 21 and Oct. 22, on behalf of the Longboat Key Club. After hearing Hank Fishkind’s testimony, I would think it would make people who are against the expansion think long and hard again.
— Beverley Albertson

Hearings for the Longboat Key Club expansion are burdened with more hostility than is good for the community. This is true no matter how you feel about the issue. It is important for the town’s governing boards and the leadership of the contesting sides to minimize distortion and divisiveness.
— Bill Sandy

We attended the Planning and Zoning Board hearing at Temple Beth Israel. The early arrivals ... wore “Can the Plan” stickers. Soon, the Key Club bus arrived carrying those from the free breakfast hosted by the club. These were mostly younger women and men in business attire, proudly exhibiting their large “I Support the Plan” label. We are offended that these commercial people, many of whom are based in Sarasota, have come to our community to lobby for their own profit goals, to the detriment of the residents of the Longboat Key Islandside community.
— Rudy and Hope Meiselman 

I had not seen any of these people on Longboat Key before. I don’t know how many of them were real-estate agents or members of our local chambers of commerce, but I suspect most of them were.

My wife and I arrived early and waited outside as the attendees arrived. Almost everyone had a label indicating whether they were for or against the Key Club plan.

Mr. Welly has said that if the plan is not adopted that the club will be managed for cash flow. This means to me that it will be put up for sale with little money put in for its maintenance as it is. Furthermore, I don’t believe we can assume that a new club owner would be as willing to finance improvements and even the same level of maintenance as do the present owners, nor can we assume that a new owner would be as supportive of the cultural life of Greater Sarasota - Manatee. A vital Club is crucial for Longboat Key and the whole area.
— Marvin I. Baker, M.D.

It is time for us to get on board and support the Longboat Key Club and Resort renovation. It is good for the community. — Mr. and Mrs. J.M. Pete Salpietra

I have owned and lived fulltime on Longboat Key since 1966 and the changes that have been made on Longboat Key attracted those folks who are now opposing the club plans. Had we all been successful in stopping growth in the ’60s and ’70s, the Longboat Key population would still be 1,200 people.
— Bobbie Banan

The next step: the November hearing

Islandside Property Owners Coalition’s attorneys did not get a chance to make their presentation in October regarding the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s Islandside renovation and expansion proposal.

Although IPOC attorneys Michael Furen and Robert Lincoln will make their anticipated three-hour presentation when the Planning and Zoning Board’s public hearing continues Thursday, Nov. 5 and Friday Nov. 6, both attorneys shed some light on the opposition’s stance when they cross examined the club’s witnesses. When Lincoln cross-examined consultant Joel Freedman, owner of Freedman Consulting & Development LLC, he insinuated the town’s Gulf-planned development does not permit commercial or mixed-use developments.

Lincoln implied the town couldn’t approve a meeting center and other commercial properties in the Gulf-planned development. Key Club attorney Brenda Patten argued, however, that the developments are already in the Gulf-planned development and nothing prohibits those types of developments from being approved there.

Furen, who did not return a phone call seeking comment for this story, spoke briefly to a select few witnesses, asking them whether or not the club’s attorneys and consultants knew and understood the town’s building code.

Bob White, chairman of the Islandside Property Owners Coalition and a resident of L’Ambiance, said it’s obvious the coalition’s attorneys will refute a number of the club’s claims as to its right to expand its facility without substantial changes to town codes.

The two key issues, exclusive of the town code, White said, are the scale and intensity of the project, including the potential use and capacity of the proposed meeting center and the change in the quality of life for residents who live within the Islandside community.

“I thought the club presented a very smooth presentation that presented a lot of theories,” White said. “From our attorneys’ standpoint, the focus is going to be on the town’s zoning and Comprehensive Plan issues that arise from this project.”

White said the coalition is willing to sit down with club staff to find “middle ground” to discuss the project’s scale, the departures from town code being requested and the impact the meeting center has on the project.

White also downplayed the public comment period Thursday, Oct. 22, saying the large majority of those who spoke in favor of the project were business owners and real-estate agents who don’t live on the Key.

But a count of the 17 public speakers revealed that 10 of the 14 project supporters are Longboat Key residents.

“That public comment was based on emotion, and the planning board has already been told their opinion needs to be made based on the facts of the hearing,” said White, who expects a strong following of coalition supporters to attend the November hearing.
 — Kurt Schultheis




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