- April 22, 2023
The Longboat Key Town Commission voted Wednesday to approve changes to the Residences at the St. Regis Longboat Key Resort proposal.
“I didn’t realize what a huge weight it was until they approved it,” Unicorp National Developments CEO Chuck Whittall said. “It’s a huge weight lifted off.”
Commissioners voted 6-0 on a planned-unit development proposal and the final site plan.
“It is going to be the nucleus of this town,” Whittall said.
Unicorp is planning to hold an invitation-only groundbreaking on Oct. 25. Building-permit approval from the town is next on the punchlist toward construction. Completion is envisioned in 2024.
“This is an incredible project that guys have brought forward with an incredible amount of perseverance,” Mayor Ken Schneier said.
On Wednesday, commissioners approved a parking plan to add 62 mechanical vehicle lifts to the hotel’s valet garage, which increases total parking from 405 spaces to 468. Unicorp submitted the proposal to add the mechanical lifts on Oct. 12.
The reason was due to the allocation of parking between residential towers and the hotel tower. The latest proposal calls for 299 parking spaces at the hotel and 169 spaces for the condos.
Town regulations required 107 residential spaces and 298 for the hotel. Unicorp’s original split was 169 residential spaces and 236 in the hotel.
“The hotel component meets the zoning code requirement,” Planning, Zoning and Building Director Allen Parsons said.
Town staff recommended approval of the revised parking plan. However, the town received additional paperwork on Wednesday morning.
Unicorp also requested for parking space size on the mechanical lifts to be smaller than what the Town Code allows. For the 62 mechanical lifts, the proposal calls for 9-foot-by-18-foot ground-level parking spaces and a usable parking platform of not less than 7 feet by 13 feet.
Each mechanical lift at the St. Regis hotel will be able to park two sedans, or one SUV and one sedan. The mechanical lifts will not provide enough room to park two SUV-size vehicles.
Whittall explained what it meant to receive approval from At-Large Commissioner BJ Bishop and District 4 Commissioner Debra Williams. Bishop and Williams had voted against the site plan on Oct. 6 due to their concerns about a lack of parking, and the proximity of the proposed Monkey Bar and event pavilion to the erosion control line.
“I meant a lot. I knew we only needed four (votes), but I really wanted a unified commission,” Whittall said. “It sends a strong message to the entire town that the community is behind this.”
The Town Commission approved Unicorp’s request for a 41.7-foot waterfront setback for the proposed Monkey Bar, but denied the request for a 76.1-foot setback for the event pavilion.
The plan is for the Monkey Bar to sit 108.3 feet from the erosion control line. The town would normally require to be 150 feet.
Bishop said she disagreed with Unicorp’s proposed location of the Monkey Bar, and that it was the St. Regis operators’ responsibility if they had issues with the mechanical parking lifts.
“I still have grave concerns about what we’re doing in terms of the (erosion control line) and the Monkey Bar,” Bishop said. “This is a really important project for Longboat, and while I don’t agree with that one particular provision, I will be supporting it . . . because I think it’s far too important to this community to not have a really solid vote.”
“I’m happy to say this was resolved,” Williams said of the parking changes.
Lawyer Brenda Patten said hotel employees would be the primary users of the lifts. She said the plan is to have four electrical boxes, which would operate the lifts.
On Oct. 6, the Town Commission had previously voted on a plan that called for 405 spaces, which is the minimum amount the town requires.
Unicorp plans to develop 69 condo units and 166 hotel units along with restaurants and other public facilities.
Whittall said he would not go through the years-long process again knowing what knows now.
“I was younger. Would I want to spend 8.5 years doing this again? No,” Whittall said. “Eight and a half years ago, there’s been many times where it’s been tough. I wasn’t willing to give up.”
Whittall mentioned the possibility of someday adding second-level parking to a proposed surface lot near Gulf of Mexico Drive. It would add about 60-70 more spaces. Although Whittall mentioned it publicly, it was not something town commissioners considered as part of their voting on Wednesday afternoon.
“I don’t know if we’ll need it,” Whittall said of the possibility of adding more parking. “We’re finding with our projects we need less and less parking because of the rideshare options.”
Whittall is excited for a planned ceremonial ground-breaking next week, especially with costs increasing due to disruptions in the supply chain in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Citing rising construction costs, Unicorp asked buyers last month for a 13% increase on agreed-upon purchase prices. Whittall said it prompted 10 buyers to back out of their agreement.
District 1 Commissioner Sherry Dominick did not participate in the Wednesday meeting because she is an employee of Michael Saunders & Co. The realty company is handling the sales of St. Regis condo units.
No current commissioners were on the Town Commission in March 2018 for the initial St. Regis approval. However, Schneier, Vice Mayor Mike Haycock and At-Large Commissioner BJ Bishop previously considered the St. Regis proposal when each served on the Planning and Zoning Board.
This is a developing story. Refresh the page for the latest updates.