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New state law affects island's density

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  • | 4:00 a.m. June 8, 2011
  • Longboat Key
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Increasing the island’s density just got more difficult.

At the Longboat Key Town Commission’s Monday, June 6, regular meeting, town attorney David Persson informed the commissioners that a house bill the governor signed into law last week prohibits the town from holding a referendum in regard to any future Comprehensive Plan amendments.

For the town of Longboat Key, that affects its density. The town’s existing Comprehensive Plan, as adopted in March 1984, states the town’s density limitations cannot be changed without a referendum of Key voters.
Persson made it clear, however, that a referendum approved in March 2007 to grant the town an additional pool of 250 tourism units is legal because the town got permission from its voters before the law went into effect.

“You still have the 250 tourism units,” Persson said. “But going forward without modifications, there is no safety valve. It is what it is.”

The Longboat Key Club and Resort’s Islandside renovation-and-expansion project is also not affected, Persson said, because the town’s planned unit developments are granted density flexibility.

“The Comp Plan provided a density cap on a parcel-to-parcel basis, with the exception of planned unit developments, where you can move density around,” Persson said.

Where it may become an issue are places such as the north end of Longboat Key, where the Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board is already forming a Comp Plan amendment to create an overlay district that would allow for residential units at the site of the current Whitney Beach Plaza.

Persson told Planning, Zoning and Building Director Monica Simpson at the regular meeting that residential units would not be allowed on the Whitney Beach Plaza because of the new law.

But there may be a loophole.

Simpson explained that the Whitney Beach overlay district includes some nearby parcels of land that allow for a maximum of 12 residential units.

Persson said that if a developer were able to acquire residential parcels next to Whitney Beach Plaza, a new district that includes those parcels might allow some flexibility.

“I will say it may be possible, but you can’t create residential units out of old cloth anymore,” Persson said. “But a district that includes portions of residential sounds logical and might work.”

When Vice Mayor David Brenner inquired what the new law means for the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort, Persson said that the only way of preserving the grandfathered tourism units at the resort is to keep giving the unit owners an abandonment extension until the property is renovated.

“If those units do go away, the (Colony’s) only avenue would be the tourism pool of 250 units,” Persson said.
Persson’s interpretation of the town’s charter and the new state law means that density limitations cannot be increased, and relief from the state law can only be granted through an amendment to the bill or an amendment to the town’s charter.

Town Manager Bruce St. Denis said local state representatives would be working with the town to make a possible amendment to a law that Persson believes has created an “unintended consequence.”

Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].



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