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Colony moves closer to redevelopment

The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort Association has chosen Unicorp National Development as its representative in planning a hotel and condos at the shuttered property.

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  • | 9:15 a.m. July 11, 2016
  • Longboat Key
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About a month after the Longboat Key Town Commission granted an extension for grandfathered tourism units at the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort, unit owners have chosen Unicorp National Development to represent them before the town in their efforts to revive the propery.

Planning, Zoning and Building Director Alaina Ray said the agreement allows Unicorp to file building permits for the $60,000 demolition planned for collapsing buildings and tiki huts.

The Colony Association will seek to build a five-star hotel and condominiums at the site of the resort, which has been shuttered for six years, according to a July 10 letter from Association President Jay Yablon. The firm, headed by Chuck Whittall, plans to build 180 condos and a 180-unit hotel, but it will seek approval for up to 417 units.

Unicorp seeks to become the developer for that project, although unit owners have not yet voted on the developer.

The decision comes after a contentious three-hour discussion at a June 7 Town Commission meeting, during which Whittall sought an extension through February 2018 for 129 available tourism units on the 18-acre parcel. Commissioners instead agreed to give Unicorp until Jan. 9, 2017.

Commissioners expressed frustrations about what they saw as a lack of progress on redeveloping the resort, which closed in 2010. 

“I’ll tell you I’m tired of this,” said Commissioner Phill Younger during the meeting. “I’m absolutely tired of this — it’s time to fish or cut bait.”

But Mayor Jack Duncan said today that the agreement, however trivial it may seem, is a good sign for the future of the Colony.

“It’s a step in the right direction — maybe a huge step,” Duncan said. “But let’s not get crazy.”

Whittall plans to work with town staff to hold a neighborhood workshop this winter, a referendum next spring and groundbreaking in December 2017. 

Because the Colony’s 237 units were built on 18 acres before the town created its tourism resort commercial classification that allows for just six units per acre, 129 of the resort’s 237 units are considered grandfathered. If that nonconforming use disappears, only 108 units would be permitted on the site.

The firm is also slated to close this month on Colony Lender LLC's 2.3-acre parcel on the property for as much as $25 million.

However, Key resident Manfred Welfonder remains steadfast in his own plans to redevelop the property into a Fairmont hotel.

“That’s not a done deal at all,” Welfonder said of the agreement in Yablon’s July 10 letter. He claims his plans confirm to town codes and would not require a referendum.

An ongoing dispute between Colony owner Murray “Murf” Klauber and unit owners over resort repairs that began in 2004 and a series of bankruptcy filings led to the resort’s closure in 2010.

Whittall, Yablon and officials from Colony Lender could not be immediately reached for comment.


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