The density referendum regarding the former Colony Beach and Tennis Resort property was defeated, but that does not mean the work of members of former political action committee Preserve Longboat, Inc. is finished.
Before the referendum, the PAC led opposition to developer Unicorp National Developments’ proposal for the property, which included adding 180 residential units to the property’s existing 237 tourism units. The PAC was responsible for placing signs up and down Longboat Key, as well as frequent emails to voters, all urging a “no” vote.
On March 14, the referendum was defeated 87% to 13%. Now, Preserve Longboat no longer operates as a PAC, but a "community organization that represents the interests of Longboat Key" as indicated by the referendum's overwhelming defeat, said Preserve Longboat President David Lapovsky.
Members of the group attended Monday’s Town Commission meeting to inform commissioners that Preserve Longboat is “alive and well.”
Lapovsky, who recently replaced Frank Morneau as the group’s president, said that the final decision regarding redevelopment of the property rests with the Town Commission.
“We will continue to advocate with you for a development plan that maintains the character of Longboat Key,” Lapovsky said to the commissioners. “And we will oppose any plan that fails to do so.”
Lapovsky emphasized that the referendum result proves that the vast majority of Key voters are against projects that will increase density and add the potential for an increase in traffic.
“They don’t want our beautiful island to look like Orlando or Miami Beach,” he said.
Tom Meurer, the PAC’s vice president, said the PAC supports the “rapid redevelopment” of the Colony property, as long as the project includes a maximum of 237 units and is within “all of the town’s building code limits.” In particular, Meurer noted buildings should not be higher than 65 feet above elevation, the town’s maximum building height.
Chuck Whittall, president of Unicorp, had originally proposed buildings reaching a maximum height of 12 stories for the Colony property. Before the referendum, the developer decreased that maximum to nine stories.
Whittall has stated he does not intend to sell the property, despite the failed referendum, and will propose a new plan after the Town Commission approves a Planned Unit Development process. The ordinance that includes that process will be subject to first reading and public hearing on May 1.