The Longboat Key Commission line of questioning made him sweat Monday night, but ultimately Orlando developer Chuck Whittall of Unicorp National Developments Inc. received everything he wanted to continue his $1 billion rejuvenation of abandoned properties at 6020 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key.
Whittall was eventually granted another one-year extension – the second this year – of his nonconforming density allowance on the former Colony Beach and Tennis Resort grounds. The extension now extends to 2018.
Whittall also promised to post a $1.1 million surety bond by Sept. 25. The bond could have been set equal to the $18.427 million assessed value of the former Colony Beach and Tennis Resort.
Commissioner Phill Younger complained the redevelopment in the past has never stayed on course and continually broke deadline promises. He pointed to the required vote of approval from former Colony Beach unit owners, which he said he expected to come off sooner than Nov. 10 where it is now scheduled.
“The vote keeps getting pushed back. That tells me there are problems,” Younger said. “I’ve got concerns about that."
Whittall said he has already invested $27 million into the project, including millions on permitting, and spent legal fees of up to $50,000 a month clearing off extensive litigation swirling around the properties from disgruntled unit owners.
He pointed to the recent demolition of five service buildings on the grounds and a signed development agreement with the former Colony Beach and Tennis Resort Association as evidence the deal is coming together.
“I think we are making pretty darn good progress,” Whittall said.
“He’s gotten the job done,” said Commissioner Irwin Pastor.
Longboat Key voters can now expect a referendum proposal from Whittall for the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort redevelopment with 180 residential condos, up to 57 monthly tourism units and a requested 180 new units.
If approved Sept. 26 by the commission, the referendum next spring will determine whether the new units will be allowed.
“If the referendum fails, we’ll consider any legal entitlements available,” Whittall told commissioners. “Voters will decide if they want the added density on the property. You will have an election to see if they are behind that plan.”
Whittall told commissioners he spoke in person with a key majority condo owner in an effort to bring him on board for the redevelopment. Murfreesboro, Tenn., developer Andy Adams, who owns 68 units, holds the key to the new Colony resort. Adams and his 29 percent share of unit ownership could block the deal by himself.
“We’re very hopeful of a positive outcome,” said Whittall. “I think we’re going to come to business terms.”
Jay Yablon, president of Colony Beach & Tennis Resort Association, said the Colony case is without legal precedent.
“Can it be done without Andy Adams? No, it can’t be done without the approval of Andy Adams,” said Yablon in a phone interview. “Andy Adams must approve any deal. There’s no question.”
The offer to owners comes to a minimum $130,801 per unit plus a $200,000 bonus for oceanfront units and a $100,000 bonus for mid-rise units.
The offer works out to about $186,000 per unit or about $44.15 million total.
Owners were sent an 86-page voting package to consider before approving the development agreement – or not. A Nov. 10 drop-dead date for owners to accept the offers has been set.
The offer makes it clear unit owners give up their right to sue by agreeing to the deal.
In bold lettering, using all capital letters, the offer states: “As joining owner, you understand that by becoming a joining owner, you are waiving the right to object to or contest the termination plan for the Colony condominium approved by the association under the agreement.”
Colony Beach and Tennis Resort declared bankruptcy in 2008 and ceased operations in 2010.
“All I can say is they’ve come a long way,” Pastor said. “Most of the litigation is gone.
“It’s going to be interesting in terms of how the community at large is going to feel about the project. There’s a certain special feel for the Colony because most of us attribute the success of Longboat Key to the Colony coming here. There’s sentimental value.
“We’d like to see the Colony reinstated. The question is how is this going to be done? You’ve just seen what happened with the Floridays project. There’s a message there that things are different.”
In other action
• Gave the first reading of the proposed $15,762,573 proposed budget for fiscal year 2016-17. Commissioners unanimously approved.
• An audit of the town’s registered voters determined none of the commission districts exceeds the number of registered voters in any other district by 20%. Redistricting is not required for the current year.
• The commission certified the Aug. 30 Primary Election results. A referendum to allow a proposed hotel was defeated 2,491 to 698.
• President Bruce Franklin of Land Resource Strategies of Sarasota appeared in the public comment portion of the commission meeting to tout his proposal for a 10-home development.