Planning board chairman expresses concerns about $1B Colony project
Planning and Zoning Board Chairman Jim Brown isn’t sure property’s footprint is big enough for $1 billion redevelopment plans.
| 6:00 a.m. October 26, 2016
Planning and Zoning Board Chairman Jim Brown has his doubts about plans to redevelop the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort.
“We really haven’t been shown what he’s going to do,” said Brown, referring to Orlando-based developer Chuck Whittall, who is working with the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort Association’s board of directors to redevelop the property. “I have great fears he can’t do some of what he’s proposing to do because there’s not enough land.”
Brown, who served six years on the Longboat Key Town Commission, including four years as mayor, told the Longboat Observer that the Colony Resort redevelopment is one of the last major Longboat Key projects given the island is 98% built out already.
“Put it in terms of zoning: There is currently no zoning on Longboat Key that allows hotels and residential (on the same site),” Brown said. “We know the Colony is proposing to do that. We are looking at that to see if it will be allowed or how it can be allowed.
“We’re going to control density,” Brown said. “We do not want to be a congested built-up place like others are, and we’re trying to protect that.”
Whittall said his project features only 60% of the new Zota Beach Resort’s density, with 24 units per acre for his Colony proposal compared with more than 40 for Zota, the former Hilton Longboat Key Beachfront Resort.
Brown pointed out Whittall’s proposal calls for 180 new building units, which he doesn’t believe will be possible given the 65-foot maximum building height in the town codes.
Whittall praised the planning board for amending the town’s comprehensive plan at its Oct. 18 meeting at Town Hall. The ordinance repeals and replaces plan elements such as conservation and coastal management, housing, capital improvements, stormwater and recreation and open space – all of which affect Whittall’s plans.
Brown said the update was long overdue and not directed at the Colony Resort project.
“We legally are warned, ‘Do not talk about specific projects,’” Brown said. “It applies to all the properties. Mr. Whittall was at our meeting. Yes, it affects him, but it’s not about him.”
Three major roadblocks loom in the way of the redevelopment: unit owner approval, permit hurdles and a successful referendum vote in March.
First comes unit owner approval. Votes are coming in daily as the Nov. 10 deadline approaches for unit owners to weigh in on buyout offers from Whittall.
“We have more than 100 votes so far from the unit owners,” Whittall said. “All of them are positive.”
Jay Yablon, the association’s president, said it’s too early to discuss overall unit owner voting and whether Adams is in the fold.
“There are discussions ongoing with Andy, including as of late this past week,” Yablon said Monday. “He is not committed yet but … I am confident we will get to where we need to be.”
If Adams does approve, zoning permits must still be obtained. The town’s voters will decide whether to allow another 180 Colony units be added to the existing 237 for a total of 417 in a March 25 referendum.
Whittall is optimistic about permit approval and said he plans an extensive community education campaign to back the referendum drive.