- April 7, 2017
The ordinance that includes setting the maximum height limit of new buildings on Longboat Key will be subject to its first reading and a public hearing at a Town Commission meeting at 1 p.m. Monday, May 1.
The ordinance includes proposed amendments to the town’s zoning code for planned-unit developments, or PUDs, which are designed to encourage redevelopment of old properties through a voluntary zoning process.
The town’s current height standard for new buildings is 65 feet above elevation.
Some Key residents are urging the Town Commission to maintain that standard while developer Chuck Whittall, president of Unicorp National Developments, and his supporters are advocating for a 15-foot increase to 80 feet.
At a meeting in February, the Planning and Zoning Board approved language in the ordinance that would have allowed an 80-foot height limit above elevation for new buildings, as long as buildings were set back 2.5 times the height of the building from Gulf of Mexico Drive. In other words, an 80-foot building would have to be no closer than 200 feet from GMD.
But at a workshop meeting in March, the Town Commission rejected the Planning and Zoning Board’s 80-foot recommendation and returned to the town’s 65-foot benchmark.
Whittall is working to redevelop the former Colony Beach and Tennis Resort. His initial plan for the property, which included adding 180 residential units to the property’s existing 237 tourism units, was rejected in a March referendum by 87% of Key voters.
Since then, Whittall has garnered support from former adversaries, including Colony Association President Jay Yablon and Frank Morneau, who served as president of Preserve Longboat, Inc., a political action committee devoted to thwarting Whittall’s initial proposal for the property.
Morneau has owned property at Aquarius, which neighbors the Colony property, since 1975. He served as the condominium board’s president for 12 years.
In a Wednesday email to Mayor Terry Gans and Planning and Zoning Board chairwoman B.J. Bishop, Morneau said residents of Aquarius and TenCon, which also neighbors the Colony property, support Unicorp’s new plan.
“A significant number of us, with full cooperation from Chuck Whittall, have concluded on a binding agreement and support undertaking to bring the old Colony back to life,” Morneau wrote. “To the benefit of the neighbors and the whole of the Key.”
While Whittall has not publicly announced a new proposal, Morneau said the plan includes 103 residential units and 165 tourism units, as well as a conference center reduced in size by 25% and side setbacks of 70 feet.
Meanwhile, members of groups like Preserve Longboat, which has become a community organization since the Colony referendum, and Keep Longboat Special are urging commissioners to maintain the 65-foot limit.
In a Thursday email to Commissioner Randy Clair, David Lapovsky, who replaced Morneau as Preserve Longboat’s president, said that Key voters’ overwhelming rejection of Whittall’s proposal indicates that the majority of residents do not want an increase in the town’s 65-foot height limit.
Lapovsky also noted that the desires of Aquarius and TenCon, which he said combined house 23 registered voters, should not reflect the will of the island’s entire population.
“I needn't point out to you that the very narrow interests of these parties certainly don't justify raising the height limit for the entire Key,” Lapovsky wrote.
Whittall has stated he will attend Monday’s meeting to request the Town Commission consider an 80-foot height limit, as well as striking language from the ordinance that would require developers to build the allotted tourism units attached to a property when redeveloping that property.
Pending discussion, the ordinance will be moved forward to the June 5 Town Commission meeting for second reading, public hearing and final vote.