- May 18, 2021
Whitney Beach Plaza has a new owner.
Ryan Snyder has sold Whitney Beach Plaza for about $3.24 million to Polk County-based Porter Investment Holdings owner Hal Porter.
“Basically, the zoning restrictions out there is the reason why ultimately that I let the property go,” Snyder said.
Snyder became part owner of the plaza in 2012 through a partnership with JKI Investment Capital LLC, which had purchased the property for $3.7 million two years earlier. He had been the sole owner of the property since March 2015.
Porter declined to immediately comment on his purchase, stating he wanted to first meet with the plaza’s tenants and town leaders. He served as the president of Star Pizza Box Inc. from 1990-2013.
The LBK Liquors building sold separately to Brian Mathae, who in 2017 bought the already-established Hurricane Hanks with a partner in Holmes Beach. Mathae also owns Hurricane Liquors in Holmes Beach.
“When we found out that LBK Liquors might be available for sale, we thought it would be a complementary business to what we are already doing here,” Mathae said.
Mathae assumed control of LBK Liquors on July 1.
“That was the shining star in that plaza,” Snyder said of LBK Liquors. “The liquor store is really what pulls people into the plaza, and that’s the one thing that I am sad to see go.”
In May, the Town Commission voted 5-2 against Snyder’s request for a referendum seeking residential density to build a maximum of 10 residential units at Whitney Beach Plaza. Commissioners Penny Gold and Debra Williams voted for the measure.
Snyder could have tried to qualify for the ballot by gathering petition signatures of 10% of the Longboat Key voters. Snyder said the Whitney Beach Plaza sale was under contract by the time he appeared before the commission on May 18.
“I was actually going to withdraw my referendum request, and it got up to the day or two before the scheduled appearance before the commission,” Snyder said. “I didn’t want to do that to [Planning, Zoning and Building Director] Allen Parsons because he had done the leg work.”
It’s not the first time Snyder has tried to get approval to build homes near Whitney Plaza. In November 2016, Longboat Key voters rejected his proposal for a density request for up to 18 homes. He also tried selling Whitney Beach Plaza in February 2017.
“When the island was down-zoned back in the ‘80s, it made it extremely difficult for any commercial property out there to get any residential density associated with their property,” Snyder said.
Even if Synder had passed the town’s referendum process, he would have needed site-plan approvals from both the Town Commission and the Planning and Zoning Board to proceed with the project. He said it would have been a three- to five-year process.
The Longboat Observer asked Snyder whether he felt Longboat Key’s referendum process was too stringent.
“It depends on who you ask,” Snyder said. “If I lived out there, if I was a resident, I would say, ‘Absolutely not.” If was a resident, I would like it because, I mean, it has literally taken the control out of the elected official’s hands and it is in the people’s hands.
“(There are) a few towns in Florida that are like this. From a developer standpoint, it’s a worst-case scenario. It’s a nightmare, but if I’m living out there and I don’t want the place to look like Miami Beach spotted with towers up and down the island, I mean it’s got some, but if they didn’t have that in place, it would look a hell of a lot worse than it is right now.”
Snyder said he would devote his time to the 400-500 properties he owns. Most are residential homes in Charlotte County. He said he builds between 100-200 homes a year in Manatee and Charlotte counties.
“All of those are wildly successful, had no issues,” Snyder said. “Whitney Plaza is the biggest challenge I have ever come across in my career.”
Synder said it’s the combination of location, demographics, population and zoning. He said he was proud he reached 100% occupancy with tenants at Whitney Beach Plaza.
“I am in no way, shape or form a commercial landlord,” Snyder said. “I have no desire to ever be a commercial landlord ever again. I’ll leave that for others.”