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Former PAC devoted to thwarting Colony referendum is ‘alive and well’

Preserve Longboat Inc. is now working as a community group.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. April 12, 2017
(John McGuire) Preserve Longboat Vice President Tom Meurer speaks at a PAC event in March.
(John McGuire) Preserve Longboat Vice President Tom Meurer speaks at a PAC event in March.
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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 March 14 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 emails to residents urging a “no” vote.

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 overwhelming defeat of the referendum, said Preserve Longboat President David Lapovsky.

Members of the group attended a recent Town Commission meeting to inform commissioners that Preserve Longboat is “alive and well.” Lapovsky said the final decision regarding redevelopment of the Colony 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 the referendum result proves the vast majority of Key voters are against projects that will increase density and potentially add to traffic concerns.

“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.

Frank Morneau, an Aquarius resident who served as president of Preserve Longboat when it was a PAC, recently parted ways with the group.

“We really fulfilled our principal objective,” Morneau said, noting the referendum was resolved by “a wonderfully high vote.”

Morneau said he resigned with three other PAC members, one who also owns property at Aquarius and two who reside at Tencon. Representing the two condominiums on either side of the former Colony property, Morneau said the four neighbors have communicated with Whittall since the referendum regarding the developer’s future plans for the site.

“Chuck Whittall has been quite flexible,” Morneau said. “I’m very impressed.”

Morneau said Whittall appears to have a “sincere desire to work with neighbors,” though he added discussions with the developer are not complete.

Morneau is hopeful the needs of the Colony property’s direct neighbors will be consistent with desires of the majority of Key residents.

The former president had nothing but praise for the members of Preserve Longboat, mentioning that their cooperation during the campaign was a positive experience.

“I’ve never worked with people I’ve respected as highly in an organization as quickly put together as Preserve Longboat,” Morneau said.


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