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Unicorp National Development is Ready to move ahead with proposal for Colony property

The developer said he will comply with Longboat Key’s 65-foot height limit.

That’s when Chuck Whittall, president of Unicorp National Developments, says he intends to deliver a new proposal for the former Colony Beach and Tennis Resort.

Number of units? Between 237 and 268, split between residential condos and tourism units. His initial proposal called for more than 400 units.

Layout? Less open space than originally proposed.

Maximum height? 65 feet over elevation. The initial proposal called for 12 stories, and Whittall previously said he wanted 80 feet over elevation.

“We’re still going to build an exceptional resort,” Whittall said, adding his offer of between $130,000 and $200,000 for Colony unit owners will remain.

Whittall spoke Monday at the Town Commission meeting, at which discussion and an initial vote on an ordinance that includes height limits for new construction on Longboat Key were planned.

But commissioners held off, saying they needed more time to consider all the angles of a Planned Unit Development ordinance, including building heights.

“I can’t do anything but think about this,” Commissioner Jim Brown, an architect, said. “I’m not sure we’re ready to move this forward. This has so many flaws in it.”

One of these flaws, Brown said, is the use of the term “PUD,” which he said will give future developers the wrong impression.

“We’re not flexible enough — and I don’t think we want to be flexible enough — to call these PUDs,” Brown said.

Commissioner Randy Clair said he thinks it would be beneficial for commissioners to examine the wants and needs of property owners before advancing.

“I’d like to have that type of input into our thinking as to whether or not we are addressing the issues that our property owners are concerned with,” Clair said.

Mayor Terry Gans summed up: “What I’m hearing is that the commission has more work to do,” Gans said. “We don’t have our arms around it yet.”

Still, Whittall said he is optimistic. “The reason I’m encouraged is now we have some direction.”

The ordinance , which will now be the focus of a single-topic workshop, includes proposed amendments to the town’s zoning code for planned-unit developments, or PUDs, which are designed to encourage redevelopment of properties through a voluntary zoning process. It’s designed as a means for developments that don’t comply with zoning rules to redevelop into compliance. Existing buildings that exceed the height limit would be allowed to remain as tall.

At a meeting in February, the Planning and Zoning Board recommended allowing an 80-foot height limit for new buildings, as long as buildings were set back 2.5 times the height of the building from Gulf of Mexico Drive. In other words, an 80-foot building would have to be no closer than 200 feet from GMD.

But at a workshop meeting in March, the Town Commission rejected the Planning and Zoning Board’s plan and returned to the town’s 65-foot benchmark.

At the beginning of the meeting, residents of Aquarius and TenCon, the two condominiums neighboring the Colony property, spoke in support of the 80-foot limit to allow Whittall to proceed.

June Haley of TenCon called the state of the Colony “an eyesore” and “an embarrassment.”

Haley urged commissioners to return to the Planning and Zoning Board-recommended 80-foot limit.

“If the commissioners do not reconsider, I dread the thought that we may be faced with many more years of this blight on our community,” Haley said.

Members of community groups like Keep Longboat Special and Preserve Longboat, meanwhile, urged the commission to maintain the 65-foot height limit.

Tom Meurer, vice president of Preserve Longboat, expressed the group’s familiar concerns, including building sizes and the potential traffic caused by Unicorp’s vision for the Colony property.

Meurer stressed that all members of his organization are permanent Key residents.

“We are not snowbirds. We are not renters,” Meurer said. “We are not hotel guests. We are not developers. We’re proud of that.”



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