- March 9, 2021
The Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board, in its second day of deliberations on the issue, recommended the Town Commission approve Unicorp National Developments' proposal for a St. Regis Hotel and condo complex at 1620 Gulf of Mexico Drive.
Approval of the motion proffered by Vice Chairman Ken Schneier came with one condition: the proposed 10,000-square-foot ballroom would be reduced to 7,650 square feet. That size offers 425 people, which the Orlando-based-developer has proposed as a limit for event attendance, 18 square feet per person.
The vote, broken into multiple parts, approved the planned unit development and outline development plan as well as final site plan by a vote of 7-0. In a separate vote, Board member Stephen Madva opposed reducing the ballroom size.
"The bending that has been done to this point, over backwards, is sufficient at this point," Madva said of concessions made by the developer since 2016.
Fire codes require 15 square feet per person for safety purposes in public spaces. The original application sought 23 1/2.
"We may find that a premium, new five-star hotel requires more than the fire code allows," Schneier said. "The applicant can do very well within 18 square feet per person."
Chuck Whittall, president of Unicorp National Developments, said he had planned to offer a compromise of a 7,800 square foot ballroom, a proposal he had negotiated with grassroots organizations Keep Longboat Special and Preserve Longboat, which had opposed the original plan.
The traffic generated by a capacity crowd at the larger ballroom formed the basis of weeks of opposition in the form of e-mails to Town Hall.
Representatives from both groups petitioned the Planning and Zoning Board Tuesday and Wednesday morning for a smaller ballroom.
"I think we have a compelling case in a week and a half," Whittall said of the March 5 Town Commission meeting. "I think we have a lot of community support behind us."
Unicorp Developments Inc. looks to build a 166-room St. Regis Hotel and Residences, with 78 adjoining condominiums. It also proposes multiple restaurants, a spa, bar and fitness center all open to the public.
Its application, as suggested for approval by the Planning and Zoning Board to the Town Commission, includes conditions that require the developer demolish existing buildings at 1620 Gulf of Mexico Drive within 60 days of any permit issuance.
If the demolition is appealed, the developer has 30 days (or up to 120, at the discretion of the town manager) after an appeal is struck to raze structures.
Construction at the property is scheduled then, according to the conditions, six months after any issuance of permits. That construction, which is to be completed all at once (not in phases), is required to finish within three years, according to measures suggested by the Planning and Zoning Board to the Town Commission.
The Town Commission is scheduled to hear Unicorp's application for development in the Resort at Longboat Key Club John Ringling Room at 9 a.m. March 5 and again, for final approval, at 9 a.m. March 16.
Town elections are March 20.