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Would-be developer holds out hope for Colony

While Unicorp waits for unit owners to approve its proposal, Manfred Welfonder maintains he has a viable plan B.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. October 5, 2016
  • Longboat Key
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As a proposed $1 billion redevelopment plan for the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort awaits the first  of several approvals needed, Manfred Welfonder continues to wait. 

Welfonder, principal of Longboat Key-based MW Development Group, has sought to redevelop the Colony for more than seven years. He says now he’s just waiting for the current plan to fall apart. 

Welfonder holds out hope for his plan, with Naples-based The Lutgert Cos., because he said the current proposal by Unicorp Acquisitions LLC to unit owners is too rich to make business sense. 

“He’s promising a huge amount,” Welfonder said of Orlando developer and Unicorp President Chuck Whittall. “It is above market value.”

Colony unit owners’ votes will be tallied Nov. 10 on whether they accept Unicorp’s offer to end all litigation and sell their units. If 91% of owners agree, the deal with Unicorp can move on to the next hurdles.

Jay Yablon, president of Colony Beach and Tennis Club Association, said votes are coming in, but it’s too early to have a projection.

“It’s a good agreement for the owners. It solves the problem of having a unified 18-acre development,” he said.

If approved by unit owners, perhaps the largest hurdle in Unicorp’s plan is a request to increase density on the property. That will require town voters to approve a referendum in the spring to add 180 units, for a total of 437. It must also change zoning.

That’s a lot of moving parts, Welfonder said.

“The MW Group is currently in a stand-by position with its qualified Colony redevelopment proposal,” read an email sent to town commissioners Sept. 24 by MW Corp. and Welfonder. “We are in such a situation because we do not want to interfere with the recent Colony board’s developer selection.”

Town Attorney Maggie Mooney-Portale said she was “not familiar with the standby position term” when asked by commissioners for an opinion on Welfonder’s email at the Sept. 26 commission meeting.

Whittall rebutted Welfonder.

“Mr. Welfonder has nothing, no agreement,” Whittall said. “I’m not a developer who flips properties. I plan on building the resort. … It will not leave my plans. I will not sell that property.

“Mr. Welfonder has nothing, no agreement. I’m not a developer who flips properties. I plan on building the resort. … It will not leave my plans. I will not sell that property."

Unicorp President Chuck Whittall

“It’s very certain to me someone is stirring the pot.”

Welfonder does have his supporters, despite Unicorp having been chosen by the Colony board as its official developer.

Unit owner Peter Kohnstamm, 67, said he wants to see the Colony redeveloped, but is dubious it will gain approval for 180 more units.

“I’m not in favor of what’s in front of us,” he said of Unicorp’s plan.

One of his biggest concerns, however, involves tennis amenities, he said.

“We bought a unit to play endless tennis,” Kohnstamm said.

Whittall said tennis will be prominently featured in the redevelopment with at least three courts and a tennis shop.

Another unit owner said he still has concerns made public earlier about the Colony developers. Original penthouse unit owner Ken Byers sent a letter to the association board in March underlining his misgivings about the Unicorp choice.

Byers said in his letter the Colony board became “infatuated with the unrealistic and unsustainable $130,800 base unit offer.”

“In order for Unicorp to pay that, they will have to develop way beyond what the city will approve,” Byers wrote.

Whittall said there is no reason to even consider another developer.

“I think we’re coming along,” he said.


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