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St. Regis parking changes denied by Town Commission

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  • | 3:15 p.m. June 6, 2023
Rendering of proposed parking garage.
Rendering of proposed parking garage.
Courtesy photo
  • Longboat Key
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After a nearly six-hour meeting, the Longboat Key Town Commission voted 6-0 to deny the Residences at the St. Regis Longboat Key’s proposal to build a multilevel parking garage on the property. 

The denied proposal was for a 156-space parking structure to replace the original plans of 62 mechanical lift spaces and a 28-space surface parking lot.

Commissioners were in agreement that the developers did not prove a substantial need for the parking change and the building of a garage that has faced public scrutiny since the application came forward in January. 

“The garage has generated substantial resistance from all corners of the community,” Mayor Ken Schneier said. 

He cited 76 emails received in commissioner email inboxes. Town Clerk Trish Shinkle compiled them and found only two favored the garage, he said. Despite the garage protests, many of the residents at the hearing and email writers praised the development overall. 

“Almost all opponents here praised the project, but protested the garage as too much, too close and too late,” Schneier said. 

Commissioner Penny Gold was absent from the hearing.

Public comment was largely negative toward the garage proposal, with the majority of speakers citing the need to preserve the character of the barrier island they have grown to love. Many raised concerns about an approval setting a precedent and encouraging developers to come to the town to build parking garages on their properties. 

“Our shared concerns include the close proximity to (Gulf of Mexico Drive), inadequate natural landscape screening, the departure from the minimum spacing between buildings and most importantly the movement away from the normal character of our beautiful island,” resident Mark Hullinger said. “We need to know that the stewards of our town won’t open Pandora’s box and open the door to destroying the character of our island by every developer and partnership that shows up on our doorstep with deep pockets and concrete dreams.”

Not only was public comment against the proposal, but so were comments from the commissioners. 

“I do not believe (the proposed plans) have compelling evidence that this structure is needed,” Commissioner BJ Bishop said. “I do not believe that this is what we envisioned when we looked at the comprehensive plan, and I just struggle with the consistency with design standards.” 

Commissioner Debra Williams talked about the overwhelming response the commissioners have each received in their inboxes since the application was set to come before them. All of which, she said, labeled the potential for the garage as “detrimental” to the surrounding neighborhoods and the character of the town. 

“We’re here today because back in October of 2021, the applicant didn’t want to take a beat and readdress the parking issue that was discovered after the first hearing,” Williams said. “They had every opportunity to do the right thing back then. They could have taken a step back and said we do need more parking.” 

During the developer’s testimony, land use attorney Brenda Patten claimed that neighbors are not experts and don’t have the lawful right to dictate what is placed on a neighboring property. 

“I would maintain that they are experts in their neighborhoods,” Williams said. “They own the property, they live there. They know what goes on in the neighborhood and what goes on in the community. If they don’t want to see this massive concrete structure every time they walk out their door or look out their window, I would say that’s expert testimony.”

The matter will visit the commission one last time June 20 as the commission must approve and issue a written order of denial, which Town Attorney Maggie Mooney needs time to prepare. 

Even so, other matters in the application were approved as the concern with the application lied solely with the parking structure. The approved items include: 

  • Deleting beach shelters and a tiki hut 
  • Moving patio heaters and a fire lane farther east 
  • Amending departures for open space and living space ratios

With pending denial of the structure, Unicorp National Developments, Inc. will move forward with the mechanical lift spaces and surface lot as previously approved.

Property progress

The rest of the St. Regis project is more than 60% complete and on track for completion summer 2024. 

Per the May construction update from the development team, the gatehouse has been built. Handrails have been placed on the first area of the hotel and tile placement has started. Drywall is complete for the first portion of the hotel. The ballroom and porte cochere’s roofs are placed. 

About 90% of the dirt has been imported for the job. 

Of the many water features on the property, private pools for the condominiums have been set and the saltwater lagoon is in progress. 

The fire lane is complete around the property. 

Currently, teams are hanging drywall for the Bateau Building on the condo side. All kitchens are under construction. The steam and sauna rooms are being built, and crews have just started digging the midlevel pool. 

Still to come are finishes to both the condo and hotel properties. In the next two months, developers are hoping to have permanent transformers on site to give power to the team on site. 

The entire project includes five buildings, a five-story hotel on the north end of the property, three five-story condo buildings on the south side of the property and a single-floor amenities building in between. 

At the end of February, developers celebrated the project’s topping off, which signified the completion of the structure. 

The 166-room hotel will feature two restaurants, a beach grill and three bars. Additionally, a ballroom with seating for 425 is planned along with six meeting rooms and two board rooms. 

The condo complex will have 69 units with parking garages on the ground level. Prices range from $2 million to $22 million. All residences are sold out. 


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