- November 23, 2015
The public is one step closer to voting on a request from Floridays Development Co. to rezone a cluster of north-end properties to develop a new hotel.
The Longboat Key Town Commission unanimously approved ballot language on first reading Monday night for a referendum Floridays seeks after more than an hour of discussion about what, exactly, voters will decide.
Floridays seeks to build a 120-room luxury hotel in three stories over parking on eight parcels it now has under contract.
But voters won’t be deciding on a hotel plan.
The properties are currently zoned for commercial use and have no existing density; the town’s charter requires voter approval to add density.
If approved, the properties would be rezoned to tourism use, which town codes limit to six units per acre.
Because that would limit development to about 15 units on the 2.62-acre property, Floridays would then apply for additional units from a pool of 250 tourism units that voters approved in 2008.
Just 85 of those units have been assigned, all for the Zota Beach Resort that’s currently under construction at the site of the former Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort.
But commissioners worried that the referendum language didn’t reference Floridays’ plan to apply for an additional 105 tourism units if the referendum passes. Town staff did not include the reference due to word-count restrictions and because the referendum decision relates strictly to the decision to add density.
“Asking people to approve a density of six units per acre, is there a possibility of misleading people?” Vice Mayor Terry Gans asked.
Commissioner Phill Younger said the public needs to know that approving the referendum would likely result in a density of 45.8 units per acre, instead of six.
“To do anything else to me is not being upfront,” Younger said. “They (Floridays) are not going to buy this property and invest in this thing and we’re going to tell them, ‘You can build 15 units.’ They’re going to get their density.”
Commissioners unanimously approved a motion directing staff to amend the ballot language to reflect the fact that upon the approval of tourism use at six units per acre, Floridays would then be eligible to apply for additional tourism units.
The commission also approved a motion to send a mailer with clear language about the likely final density of the project.
Commissioners also discussed possible competition for additional tourism units, referring to Orlando-based Unicorp National Development’s push to redevelop the former Colony Beach & Tennis Resort.
But Commissioner Pat Zunz told the commission Unicorp has no approval from Colony owners. (See story on 3A.)
“What’s before us now is someone who’s put together a legitimate project and asked us to approve it,” Zunz said. “We’re really doing a disservice to these people.”
Commissioner Lynn Larson worried about Floridays’ request to put the question on the ballots in August.
Her concerns were heightened by the fact that Floridays asked to place the question on the ballot through an ordinance instead of by collecting petitions.
Floridays Project Manager James Brearley told the board that contracts are difficult to obtain with uncertainty looming so far into the future.
Typical contracts give developers 60 days to get approval for the project; the August vote is approximately 200 days away.
“To get everybody on board, we had to agree to get on the August ballot,” Brearley said.
Floridays will hold a “wine and cheese” discussion of plans at 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 15, at the Longboat Key Center for the Arts, 6860 Longboat Drive S. The public is invited to attend.