Unicorp National Developments will have another chance to present plans for parking at the St. Regis project, at a public hearing on Sept. 18.
Longboat Key town commissioners voted 7-0 in favor of granting Unicorp a continuance for a public hearing during the June 20 special Town Commission meeting. This continuance will allow Unicorp CEO Chuck Whittall and his team to provide a new fully developed plan for parking.
Whittall said these plans will not have a structure involved.
Whittall was the first to speak during the June 20 public hearing and recognized the public did not want a two-story parking garage. He stated an “honest mistake” was made and that there was an over-allocation for the residential parking and an under-allocation for the commercial parking.
He described the process of wanting a “quick solve,” with Unicorp first considering a plan to install mechanical lifts in the already-approved ground-level garage under the hotel building. After that idea was realized as being too problematic, they moved to the parking garage which was denied at the last public hearing on June 5. Now, Whittall said Unicorp's engineers are working on a new plan, and requested the continuance to present the plan.
“We’re going to come back through with a reconfigured parking lot that we can fit the 62 spaces in without having to do the lifts,” Whittall said. “And we don’t have to worry about building a structure or any heights."
Mayor Ken Schneier commented on the fact that the corporation has been a good community partner thus far, but wished the issue had been addressed sooner.
Whittall responded to Schneier’s comment by saying the town’s policies had been the reason behind waiting to present the parking garage plans. In most other jurisdictions, Whittall said they only require a basic site plan to be presented to the town council. For this project, Whittall said it took a lot of time and $200,000 to be able to present a plan in accordance with the town’s proposal requirements.
“In this case, we had to design the entire thing which took a year,” Whittall said. “I would have loved to have brought it to you in 60 or 90 days after the fact, but it’s not possible based on your system.”
Commissioners were able to weigh in with their own thoughts, or ask Whittall and town attorney Maggie Mooney questions. Commissioner Gary Coffin said he wouldn’t apologize for the town’s requirements for a fully fledged plan, but had no issue with granting the continuance and seeing the new plans. Penny Gold, District 2 commissioner, also said she had no objection to the continuance and was interested to see the new plans.
In their final deliberations, the commissioners reinforced that they saw public feedback as crucial moving forward with this plan.
Commissioner BJ Bishop motioned to accept the continuance, requesting a completed and accepted application no later than July 6. She also motioned for that application to be fully reviewed by staff, including landscaping and traffic plans that conform with code. This was passed unanimously 7-0.
Next, Unicorp must present its plans to the commission by July 6, which will be heard during two public hearings. The first hearing date is set for Sept. 18.