Chuck Whittall, the owner of Unicorp National Developments Inc., faces several key dates in the next week in furtherance of his company's plan to redevelop the site of the former Colony Beach & Tennis Resort into a proposed 166-room, 78-condominium St. Regis Hotel and Residences.
Whittall and his legal team are scheduled to appear at 3 p.m. in Courtroom 6E of the Sarasota County Courthouse before Circuit Judge Hunter W. Carroll in connection with Unicorp's bid to dissolve the Colony unit-owners' condominium association. If ultimately successful in court, the door would open for the company to purchase remaining units and begin the process of applying for building permits.
In Unicorp's court filing, the company contends the property is a "vast economic waste'' and the "operation and performance of The Colony as intended . . . is now an impossibility, a fiction.''
The complaint further states: "The Colony -- plagued by decades of litigation, financial hardship and operational and physical obsolescence -- has been deemed uninhabitable and unsafe, and the town of Longboat Key has ordered the demolition of nearly all buildings and improvements that comprise the property.''
Since the document was filed in early 2018, the town ordered the demolition of all the buildings, and that operation was concluded in November.
Several groups of unit owners have filed responses to Unicorp's complaint, seeking dismissal of the case.
“I expect the judge will rule in our favor on the 10th,” said Whittall, who currently owns 37 of the 237 units. Without the required 95% of Colony unit owners in support, the only way to dissolve the condominium association is through the courts.
If the judge rules in favor Unicorp, then the lawsuit could proceed to trial, perhaps by summer.
The Colony’s condo association has unanimously endorsed Whittall’s plans, said Jay Yablon, Colony Condominium Association board president. Blake Fleetwood, one of the key opponents of the plan, resigned from the board earlier this year and sold two beachfront condos to Unicorp.
With the buildings and facilities of the former Colony property demolished and debris removed -- Unicorp met a town deadline of Dec. 20 -- the next step is to stabilize the property. Hydroseeding of the land is scheduled to begin Saturday and continue into early next week, with the goal of establishing grass to prevent erosion and blowing sand. A crane, which was involved in the demolition project, was removed in the last week.
This is key to a plan to hold the Kiwanis Club's annual Lawn Party on the land March 9, honoring the late Murf Klauber and memories of The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort.
The event was moved from December at the Longboat Key Club because of ongoing work on the Oceanside's entrance and golf course.
Whittall is scheduled to appear again before the town's Planning & Zoning Board in his attempt to gain permission to erect a temporary sales office on the property at 1620 Gulf of Mexico Drive before building permits are granted.
This is Whittall's second appearance before the board. In his first appearance, the proposal was unanimously recommended for denial. A subsequent appearance before the Town Commission resulted in a 4-3 vote against the project, based largely on the fact the proposal before commissioners differed from the one considered by Planning & Zoning Board members in several details.
Whittall said marketing of the $1 million to $4 million units must start as soon as possible, to help finance the $600 million hotel and condo project. Central to that effort to pre-sell about 60% of the unites is an on-site $2 million, 3,000-square-foot modular sales office. There, prospective buyers would get a look at a model kitchen and living area and the property’s beachfront view.
B.J. Bishop, chair of the Planning & Zoning Board, said Whittall is now looking at what she describes as a global ordinance that acknowledges there are a number of large properties on the Key that will have to be redeveloped over time.