Longboat Key’s Planning and Zoning Board voted Jan. 15 to recommend approval of a rule change that allows Unicorp National Developments Inc. to set up a pre-construction sales office on the site of the proposed St. Regis Hotel and Residences.
The Town Commission could take action on the zoning text amendment at its Feb. 4 regular meeting.
The text amendment allows sales offices “subject to site restoration guarantee requirements … regardless of the cost of the improvements.”
Chuck Whittall, president of Unicorp, has been asking the town for months to build a sales office on the 17.6-acre site at 1620 Gulf of Mexico Drive. Asking prices for the 40 proposed condominiums would vary from $4 million to as much as $10 million.
By having a sales office where he plans to build the $600 million St. Regis Hotel and Residences, prospective condominium buyers would be able sample the waterfront view in addition to elements of a finished condo unit. Whittall has said selling 50% to 60% of the units is vital to landing construction financing.
During his presentation Jan. 15, Whittall said his request makes sense not only for his property but potentially others. He pointed to 47% of the buildings on Longboat as being 40 years or older, and 50% as being 50 years or older. An on-site real estate office not only fosters sales but allows for faster construction.
The rule change applies to projects 8 acres or more and 40 housing units or more. It also requires a signed development order, ordinance or resolution from the town.
“Any one of these properties would want to rebuild if destroyed by a hurricane,” said Whittall, who showed board members a letter from Realtor Michael Saunders endorsing the sales office. “It’s minimal risk and more tax to the town.”
Since 1970, Longboat’s zoning prohibits on-site sales offices before project building permits have been issued.
“This ordinance shows Planning and Zoning wants to be proactive when it comes to aging buildings,” said B.J. Bishop, chairwoman of the board. “This is a no-brainer.”
Whittall said it could be six to eight months before the sales office could be established, if approved by commissioners.