September 6, 2008

"A Funny thing happened on my way to my report"
I was scooped!
As you have probably figured out by now, given my geographic location here in Happy Valley, I need to keep in touch with a variety of individuals. These include a whole bunch of people who rely on my discretion. I never mention any names but I believe that I have a pulse on the goings and comings around Town Hall.

Consequently, I was working on a column that was going to take up a situation that had become obvious at least to me; that was that this current Town Commission is probably at the top of the list of malfunctioning commissions.

We have had problems in the past; who can forget if they were around, the Kit Fernald battles with everyone who lived south of the light at Publix and anyone north, if she thought they were rich. I am sure that Hart Wurzberg, Lou Pollock and Carleton Stewart are each sitting there as they read this, with a wry smile on their lips remembering.

Murf Klauber kept things going for a while, especially with his ability to talk people into running and then finding financing for their campaigns in his desire to fight the influence of the then powerful PIC.

I wasn't immune. I had my battles. For example, Bob Farber, Ray Metz and I went a few rounds but we still could sit down and have a drink together.

Yes, they did have fights then but they were about issues; should the Town support a Rec Center; should the town build tennis courts, should the town be primarily residential? All of these were important questions, there were hard fought but on the whole we always managed to kiss and make up. Well almost always. I still can't imagine Hart Wurzberg and Kit Fernald in any kind of friendly embrace.

One thing that is new is that for the first time, the Town Manager finds himself in the middle of the fray. The three managers I have dealt with were all different in their managerial style but in no case did they ever become the focus of any dispute. I can say without equivocation that Bruce St. Denis is the best one I have ever dealt with in his openness to other opinions, his eagerness to open up the books so to speak on any occasion and his lack of concern in having his staff meet with any commissioner at any time.

With Griff Roberts, this was a definite no no. No member of staff, including the Town Clerk was permitted to speak to a commissioner. If a commissioner contacted any staff, that employee had to report the incident. For example; Griff wouldn't tell me how much money we had left in the Beach Fund, he said to tell him what we needed and he would tell us if we had enough money. As far as he was concerned, that was how the managerial system was supposed to operate. Maybe St. Denis has spoiled them.

So it was very disturbing to find that with this Commission, the feelings ran so very deep and that the Town Manager is no longer in the umpire's chair. There was no love lost between Spoll, O'Connor and Claire and the four on the other side after the palace coup ousting Mayor Webster but Commissioner O'Connor's bringing the Manager into play raises this confrontation to a crisis period in town Affairs.

Before I wrote anything about it, I thought I should get Peter O'Connor's side of the story. To make clear what I was talking about, I sent him what I thought was a confidential e-mail; was he aware that a group of his colleagues "hated his guts" and would he like to comment? I expected to get his side of the story and then write a report outlining the differences and maybe even helping to mend a few fences.

This is where I got scooped. When Commissioner O'Connor got this e-mail he was once again locked in combat with Town Manager Bruce St. Denis over some minor scheduling issue so instead of keeping our colloquy off the record, he decided to put it in the paper making me a participant.

Commissioner O'Connor obviously does not like the Manager and he does not like any of the other commissioners who like the manager. As far as he is concerned, St. Denis can do nothing right. Why this is so is cloudy. Some say it is the result of the April Woods firing because Peter's wife is a part time employee of the town, worked with her and felt she was mistreated. Others have harsher reasons to explain his problem with the manager but whatever; it is very detrimental to the community at large.

If it were only Peter, it could be managed but unfortunately the other two on his side, have their own ax to grind and all hang together on the basis that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Commissioner Randy Clair appears to have come on the Commission on a mission. It is very apparent that he feels that he is the only adult among a group of children and it is his responsibility to keep them out of trouble. Although it is not the role of a Commissioner in a Manager type government, Randy insists on dotting every 'I' and crossing every 'T' if it means sitting up there for twelve hours. There isn't a construction drawing that doesn't need to be double-checked, there isn't a legal ruing by the Town Attorney that doesn't need to be given an appellant ruling. Randy Clair is very detail oriented in a laid back volunteer job. He is in the wrong place in the wrong job.

Everyone knows about George Spoll's desire to take charge and since I am somewhat the same, I understand his difficulty being one of seven but it would help if he would if he could ease up a bit.

There is only one reason this Commission has not spun out of control completely. That is the Mayor, Hal Lenobel. Hal is doing a monumental job in trying to get some consistency out of the group but it seems that for the near future, you can look to four to three votes on almost anything that is the slightest bit controversial.

The saddest thing about this is that unlike previous battles, in this one there are no major issues, this is purely personality driven. Hopefully, the next election will bring a few normal applicants and Longboat Key can go back to working together. The next few years are not going to be easy; it will not help if there isn't a team of rivals that are willing to pull in the same direction.

A quote from Al Green:
"The Longboat Key Club is continuing to make news by not making news. The club had been saying for years that they intended to remake the golf courses and restore them to their previous glory. Michael Welly had been quoted as saying that all they needed was a permit to bring in a temporary reverse osmosis system to start the rebuilding. Well the permit arrived and now it seems that there was something he neglected to say; that to pay for this, the club was going to have to get permission to build condos on the driving range. If you ask me if you called his bluff and gave him that right, there would be something else. I still remember Chico Marx selling Harpo a book that would tell him how to get rich in "A Day at the Races" and every time Harpo bought the book, Chico pulled out another book that would explain the earlier book. If you are golf member at the Longboat Key Club, I think you are in the middle of a MarxBrother routine.

Also when you left, the majority of the owners of boat slips at the Moorings were locked into what appears to be a battle of the year for who is going to operate, maintain and control the Moorings. As we speak, the insurgent group is in the process of attempting to replace the current board with one more sympathetic to their views. The success or failure of this attempt will go along way towards determining which side will prevail. I will probably have more too say on this fight in a late column."


August 30, 2008

Green Report
Paspullum Grass. Is it the future?

Seemingly lost in the "sturm und drang" of the proposed expansion of the Longboat Key Club is the raison d'etre for the club in the first place.

The Longboat Key Club is a golf club. It was authorized by the Longboat key Town Commission to provide "readily available" golf to the residents first for the gated communities in which the courses are built and then to the other residents of the Key.

Early in its life, the Club was also the major provider in the tennis life of the town but of recent years, with the creation of Town public courts along with another private club, The Cedars, this segment of its importance has been lowered. As matter of fact, the Club has removed altogether their courts on Islandside and situated the entire tennis facility on Harbourside, although they have added additional courts to make up some of the shrinkage.

Obviously, there can be no replacement for the golf course and herein lies the problem. The condition of the course has deteriorated because of age but more importantly the condition of the well water used to irrigate. Every year since testing has begun the salinity levels in this water along with the rest of the Island has gone up, making it difficult and at time impossible to grow and maintain the grass. The situation is dire.

You no longer see the gorgeous display of impatiens but more importantly you no longer see the lovely lush fairways and closely cropped greens that make playing golf pleasant.

In fairness to the proprietors, it isn't because of a lack of trying or spending money. Over and over, we seem to be invited to the opening of a 'new' Red Course or a 'new' Blue Course only to seen them fall back to hard packed fairways and pock marked greens.

However, it now appears that science has finally come to the rescue. A new grass, Paspullum has been created that will live as Professor Unruh PhD. Extension Turf Specialist at the University of Florida wrote me " can practically live on sea water". As Dr. Alfred Turgeon of Penn State wrote, "it is the real deal". Both men feel that the current conditions would be ideal and the grass should thrive.

Locally, Earl McMinn, groundskeeper at the Oaks Country Club says that they are very satisfied with the new grass. He said like all grass, it sometimes gets stressed but much less and with much worse conditions than the previous Bermuda.

Since there is no question that the courses on the key are in need of a complete overhaul, this new grass is an answer to their prayers. The club has already installed a sample of what could be in the putting green on Islandside.

All that remains is to now install the grass. Here it gets a little complicated because installing the sprigs with the salty water is tricky. Doctor Turgeon writes that "My understanding is that the use of salt-free or low-salt water is a definite aid in successfully establishing seashore paspullum". Dr. Unruh says it would be a challenge without a fresh water source but not impossible.

It will be interesting to see how this proceeds. The LBK Club was awarded a permit on April 14 of this year to allow for a temporary reverse osmosis process to be used at Islandside with a minor revision on August 8th. With this process in place, the well water that if it is currently too saline to allow the sprigs to become established, could be treated and the lower less salty water would do the trick and allow the grass to become strong enough to survive the difficult conditions found here on the key. Once established it should turn the golf courses back into the lush, rich Garden of Eden that we all remember so fondly.

Michael Welly, the spokesman for the club has spoken on many occasions about the restoration of the club even going so far as to ascribe the new design to Rees Jones a world-renowned golf course designer. Mr. Jones along with his father is known for creating very difficult and tricky courses designed to thwart the top professionals, none of whom play on Longboat Key. Speaking as a former member for twenty years, I think I can say with confidence that most of the members would just settle for a fairway that allows you to hit a three wood off the grass and a green that allows the ball to roll evenly.

With everything in place, there can be no excuses. Members and everyone who will benefit from having a first class golf facility on the key are waiting with bated breath. I guess it isn't far off the mark to say to the club owners, "put up or shut up". Any pretense such as saying that it would require the permission to build condominiums in order to fund the new grass would in my mind be a failure of the responsibility that the club owners have to the community.


August 9, 2008



It has been a while since the announcement by the Longboat Key Club telling of their plans to expand the club by investing an additional 500 million dollars.

On the overall application, the people involved in the construction phase of the plan have requested a pre application meeting with the Town officials who will be monitoring the process. They have postponed the meeting once but if they go through with this session, it will be the sign of the first step in a long process.

In the meantime, one of the early projects, the bringing in of a reverse osmosis mini operation on Islandside seems to be abandoned. If you recall, Michael Welly, the Resident Manager had said that they had found a grass, Paspulum, that would survive salty water conditions found at both courses but that the r/o water would be needed to get the grass started. There had been news releases giving progress reports as to the status of the permitting process for several months. A decision to not go with fresh water for the start up is a change and is possibly a gamble. Dr. Alfred Turgeon, Professor of Turf Management here at Penn State advises me that this grass does well in difficult conditions and he has seen it used it successfully in Hawaii under similar circumstances. If it works, it will be of great interest to the large condos on the key that are currently watering from the same source and face similar problems to the club. The success of this new grass is the key to everything that comes after. Any upgrading of facilities without a top flight golf course is an exercise in chutzpah. It will be interesting to follow the time sequence as to which comes first, the reconstruction of the golf courses or the new buildings.

It would be reasonable to assume that they would need to see how the new grass takes hold before they would embark on any of their proposed expansionist plans. With the members anxiously awaiting a refurbished golf course, it will be interesting to see if the Club ties the new golf course to getting approval for the new condos.

The Islandside Course is now forty years old and normal practice would dictate a major overhaul if only to maintain the playability for the current members. If the complaints that cross this desk about the playing conditions are any indication, this cannot happen too soon.
All of the club's activities of late could cause one to wonder if securing a site plan for a massive redevelopment coupled with the purchase of the Moorings is but a precursor for an attempted sale of the entire property. After all, the purchase of the Moorings serves as a device to average out their cost basis in British pounds, the British being the major investor and their money has almost doubled in value vis a vis the dollar over the time of the original deal.

However we will watch to see how this all plays out. The threatened lawsuit by the slip owners at the Moorings to require the club to honor their original proposal is another wild card. This controversy is showing no sign of abating and could have an influence on the entire operation.

July 26, 2008


The Battle at the Moorings Goes On

Last time I reported on the ongoing battle between the slip owners and the LBK Club, the boaters were being offered a discounted membership but with a restriction that they sign a covenant that would attach the requirement of membership in the Club itself as a condition of sale.

When this offer received the kind of acceptance one would expect and with a poll of the members coming up with a 95% disapproval of this offer, the club came up with a different proposition.

The new offer requires no initial payment but still carries with it, the recreational covenant and the waiving of all rights to object in the future.

This means that the Club has lowered its initial financial requirement from $15,000 to zero. This is an improvement but the duplicity exhibited by Welly has so polluted the atmosphere that this offer is still dead on arrival both because of the lack of trust but primarily the other restrictions I have listed.

The basic problem has always been the so-called recreational covenant. As you know, a covenant travels with the property not with the person who signs. This means that forevermore, a slip that has this rule attached to the deed will force any new owner to accept whatever financial and other restrictions the club chooses to place on the property.

The fact that the atmosphere has been poisoned complicates any negotiations between the two parties. Any attempt at compromise starts off with a huge disadvantage when there is complete distrust on the part of one side. In my previous report, I went into detail on these earlier proceedings.

Mr. Welly can't seem to do anything right. He first advised the slip owners that they had no rights. He then changed and suggested that if they 'waive' these rights, the ones he has already told them they didn't have. He now proposes this new class of membership but he has not eliminated the major issue.

An accountant who is a slip owner, in a letter to his fellow owners explained it in more stark tones than I can do so let me just reprint his analysis:

"The entire contract is an abuse. This is a contract in which the Key Club makes not promises or commitments. Only the slip owner is committed. The statement the Covenant places restrictions on the transfer is a gross understatement. This type of permanent blemish on the title, and perpetual unknown future charges to be a lien against the slip, and a requirement for all future owners would appear to limit the available market for selling slips. To help with understanding the egregious extortion and how this dupes the slip owners - think of this in a manner to separate yourself from the fray. If you are looking at two homes on Longboat - Home #1 is free from all liens, and encumbrances, and commitments. Home #2 has a "Recreational Covenant" which is a permanent lien against the home, and commits you to Pay $50,000 fee to buy the home along with an added $11,000 annual dues for so long as you own the home, or the home will be seized and auctioned - which home will you choose? If you are told that Home #2 will also require that if you sell the home, the same amounts MUST be paid again - which home will you buy? If you are told that Home #2 when passed on to your heirs or beneficiaries will require the heirs to pay the amounts again, or the Club will seize the home - which home will you buy?"

As a long time observer of the Club, I never cease to marvel at how they can mangle relations with their members and Resort owners so consistently and with so little empathy.

If the Club would offer a non binding membership, it is probable to assume that most of the slip owners would accept. It is not out of the question that some of them might want to play a little golf or work out at the new spa. By adding a dining minimum, it would certainly not hurt and the club seems to have many less members than they had in the past.

Why Michael Welly persists with his arbitrary position is the question. Did he convince his boss that by buying the marina, they would have an additional 150 dues paying members for life? If so, he ought to fess up to over promising. If he is just following orders, then the responsibility should be sent back to Mr. Lesser. After all, when the problems of the refurnishing and rehabbing the Resort got too much for Shane Eagan, Mr. Lesser came down and took charge. Something should be done, Mr. Welly has lost his audience.

The Longboat Key Moorings is the largest deep water marina on the West Coast. It should be an asset to Lonboat Key not the place for a war between a very well financed and resolute group of boat owners and a club that depends for its long term existence on its reputation.

It is largely on this reputation, good or bad, that a great portion of the value of the real estate of the community depends. This makes it not just a problem for a group of wealthy boaters; it involves everyone who owns property on the key.


July 7, 2008


Still a Three-Ring Circus

While most of the attention has been on the budget battle and the golf club expansion, there is still an ongoing struggle over at the Harbourside marina known officially as "The Moorings".

In a previous report, I described how the sale of the Moorings by its original developer Bill Vernon had created a major controversy with the new owner, Loeb Realty.

I pointed out that the sale was predicated on the agreement by the slip owners that they would not exercise their right of first refusal and how Michael Welly, resident General Manager for the Loeb group sold the slip owners into giving up this privilege by promising that nothing would change in the way the Moorings was being managed.

Using a technical explanation as an excuse not to honor his word, Mr. Welly after the sale was concluded advised the boaters that the deal was off and in order to use the facilities (restaurant, pool, toilet, etc) Loeb would require the slip owners to join the Longboat Key Club at a discounted initiation fee and annual dues. This might have been accepted, in most cases reluctantly but he then put in the final kicker. This was that all the owners must agree to sign a covenant to their deed that all future owners must join the club n order to buy the slip.

As I wrote, this deal had been rejected by most of the dockominium owners and since my last report; they hired Michael Furen to represent them

Negotiations have been going on under a silent period agreement and now the results of these negotiations have been announced. In its simplest form, it can be said that the Loeb Realty Company has told the boaters to "go pound sand". In short, the requirement to add the covenant to their deed is now broadened to require the signers to waive any prior rights and reveal their financial affairs...

What will come out of this remains to be seen. The owners are being urged by an ad hoc group of their own to stand fast, sign nothing and hope that the club will see the sense of not having an adversarial relationship. There are still quite a few slips needing to be sold to help pay for the purchase and one would think that a happy membership would be an important factor to any potential buyer.

In some ways, this situation mirrors one that was fought out by Mr. Welly and his owners with another group, the owners of the apartments at the Inn on the Beach.

In that case, when the owners rebelled at the constant request for money to fix up their units, Mr. Lesser himself came down and threw down the gauntlet. Anyone who didn't pay up was to be thrown out of the rental program. When almost half of the owners didn't bow down and formed a rebel group, it looked the rebellion would prevail.

This created a situation where you could rent a room through the club or you could rent a similar room through an outside rental agent for considerably less money. The only difference was that if you paid the higher rental, about 50% higher, you could order a coke at the pool. At one time during this period, Jill and I rented a lovely apartment for one half of what the Resort was quoting.

However, in this case, Mr. Lesser's hard and fast stand paid off. Over a period of about four years, the rebel group sold their apartments to more compliant buyers and today all is calm at the Resort and there are no bargains to be had.

Now it should be pointed out that the sale of these units all occurred during the real estate boom where everything was selling because everyone knew that the price was always going to be higher tomorrow. Under the current economic conditions, whether there is going to be enough buyers with million dollar plus boats who want to spend anther half a million on a slip and also pay to join a golf club, remains to be seen.

However, for the present, there is and will be in the near future a fairly sizable group of discontented Longboat Key residents, even if these residents are about four feet off shore.

Let me add a footnote to my last column on the tax issue. I have just read a letter from Commissioner Clair to the Manager that is very encouraging. Commissioner Claire seems to be expressing a feeling that hasn't been evident in the early discussions. That is that although raising taxes is not a good thing to do, cutting services that are needed is a worse thing. I congratulate Commissioner Claire for his letter. The picketing by the Fireman is just another reminder of how this decision is going to affect future labor relations.


June 13, 2008


The Commissioners Take Back the Candy

Almost as soon as he took over the mayoralty, Hal Lenobel began a campaign to take back the right of site plan approval from the P&Z Board. Many observers who are not up to the minutiae of local government thought it a minor issue; many others who are more involved with zoning issues thought it a terrible power grab. For those who would like to understand what the fuss is all about let me try to clarify the dispute.

Assume, if you can, giving your 14 year old son a credit card of his own. You do it because you have placed a limit of $100 on the card so you feel comfortable, giving away some of your authority. Then assume that the credit card company advises you that all credit cards will have a limit of $1000. You cancel the card, right? Well that is what is going on with Mayor Lenobel's change; he is asking the Commission to cancel the P&Z's credit card and returning the spending authority to the parents.

In 1999, the commissioners like most of the residents of Longboat Key assumed that the build up of the town was complete. All property of any size was already occupied and a very strict Comprehensive Plan placed very stringent rules on their usage.

Increase in density was for all practical purposes eliminated forever; most gulf front tourist properties were destined for eventual destruction and to be replaced with single family homes; the condos and gated communities were restricted by deed and condo documents from instituting any major change; in short just as Professor Fukuyama said in a macro sense, Longboat Key said in a micro sense, we had reached the "end of history".

Consequently, with the P&Z Board made up of the most intelligent and prestigious group ever assembled in any community, large or small, why not eliminate a relatively tedious portion of the agenda and let the P&Z decide where the building lines were going to be placed.

Well surprise! Just as in the macro world, history is still with us. With the passage of the two referendums, all bets are off. No one knows what could be in store. The Colony could become under the new rules, a major tourist center, the Hilton could expand and become a huge hotel, all of the other tourist places could come up with similar ideas and no one knows where the fickle finger will point to when the 150 extra units are bestowed. In short, the credit card limit has been expanded and it is time for grown up supervision.

It is the feeling of Mayor Lenobel and hopefully of a majority of the commission that since major decisions could be in the offing, the discretion for making these decisions should rest with a group that is answerable to the voters. Anything else could be chaos. Could you imagine for one moment if the decision on how to handle the expansion of the golf club were in the hands of the P&Z and there were no measures, either though political pressure or the actual use of the ballot box, to affect to the final outcome, the current hue and cry would seem like a mild murmur.

The goal line has been moved, the quiet certitude of Longboat Key as a residential community primarily devoted to fully and semi-retired people is no longer a fact. Whether consciously or not, the voters of the town have changed the atmosphere and everything is up for grabs. It behooves the Town Commission to grab back some of the reins it dropped, the stakes are too high and it is time for the grown ups to take over.
In my last report, I discussed the maintenance of the Islandside Golf Course. This was based in most part on my own experience a couple of months ago. Many readers have contacted me with horror stories about the conditions of the course today. If the Loeb Realty Group intends to do nothing for the course until they get a final decision on their overall plan, there could be very serious consequences for the town. Realtors who know best tell me that it is almost impossible to sell a home or a condo to a potential buyer if that buyer's major retirement emphasis is on golf.

I have said from the very beginning when I first went on the Commission; Longboat Key is similar to a giant gated community. No responsible developer of such a community would put a shovel in the ground before he made sure he had a beautiful golfing facility on the premises. Longboat Key cannot survive in the manner in which it has developed if the golf courses continue to be an embarrassment. They must be "readily available" which means financially as well as geographically and they must be lush and green. Any discussion that involves the future of the club must keep these criteria in mind and the Town cannot wash their hands of responsibility. They also must make sure they don't destroy the quality of life on the key to accomplish this task. If Loeb can't do it, get someone who will.


June 6, 2008


The Town Hires an Attorney

At the suggestion of the Town Attorney, David Persson, the Longboat Key commissioners have hired an attorney to advise them on the correct way to handle the potential application for the expansion of the Longboat Key Club.

The attorney they have hired is Ms. Nancy Stroud, a well-regarded land use attorney and one who has a long history with Longboat Key.

It was Ms. Stroud who advised the Commission that they had the right legally to pull the permit on the spa where the local businessman Murf Klauber had already begun construction. I can recall her letter stating that although the time period our code required was legal, it was shorter than was usually the case. If only Ms. Stroud had added that although it was legal, it might also be the best course to cut him a little slack. If the town had received that advice, there would probably not been a court case and the owners of property on the key would be paying about 25% less on their current water bills.

If Ms. Stroud is being retained to make sure that whatever the decisions of the Town Commission, they will be legal, that is a sensible idea. However, I would remind all concerned that doing things legally didn't cut it when Murf Klauber's attorneys were able to get the Town in front of a jury. It is a matter of record that rich towns like Longboat Key do not do well in front of juries. For these folks, rich towns are like insurance companies, just a pot of money that is waiting to be spread around.

There is no question that there will be legal issues but I repeat that the question before the house is truly a political one. The idea that Longboat Key will be better off with a large luxury hotel; a meeting hall for conventioneers that will bring hosts of people onto the key and a golf course that will draw avid golfers who will want to have a bag tag that says the golfer played a destination course like Pebble Beach or Brandon Dunes, is an idea that some think is what is best for the town and it's residents. In fairness, it should be said that other towns would consider this plan a windfall. However, the residents through their elected representatives have a right to make that decision.

The Comprehensive Plan for the Town has been approved by the State. The Outline Development Plan that Arvida and the Town worked out together complied with the criteria of that plan. There is no law that requires one of the two parties to that contract or their successor to have to agree to renegotiate the contract. Especially since the changes would only be done for the economic benefit of one of the parties.

The Comp Plan is not set in stone and the changes wrought by the two referendum issues made adjustments to the plan. However, considering the overwhelming opposition to the LBK Club proposal, there is no incentive to make further changes.

The Loeb Realty Group has once again done a terrible job of public relations. As in the case of the refurbishment of the Resort and the operation of the Moorings, they jumped in with spiked boots and a public be damned attitude. I don't suggest that if Welly went to each of the condo association meetings in advance and described what they wanted to do, it would have changed any minds but it certainly would have removed some of the heat from the controversy.

Unless there is some concession or contribution to the town and the residents that hasn't been yet suggested that might even the scale, the 500 million dollar plan will end up being an expensive dream. It remains to be seen if Loeb Realty holds to their statement that the refurbishment of the golf course is dependant on the proposed expansion. If it is, the town should look into the possible purchase of the club. High-end real estate in Florida is closely tied into availability of well-maintained golf courses and Longboat Key will be no exception. No one argues that the golf course needs attention; it just seems that almost without exception, no one wants the baggage that has to come with it.


May 31, 2008

Key Club Plans

When I first read of the huge expansion that the Loeb Realty was suggesting for the key, I wondered how in the world they expected to get it approved.

My original thought was that they were doing as they had done in the past. That is to slap on a plan for an oversized project and then when opposition raised its head, cut it back to what they wanted to do in the first place.

Now I see they have a different approach: they intend to hold the golf course as hostage.
They are saying that the club has deteriorated through no fault of their own and now needs massive input of funds to make it better and the only way that they can find these funds, is to allow them to build a couple of hundred condominiums and a hotel.

They point to the loss of golf members as proof that if they had a better swimming pool, more restaurants and a meeting hall, they would have more members.

If this were coming from another source, it wouldn’t be so funny. This is coming from a management who has worked overtime to alienate and aggravate their members.

When I think of all they have done, I think of Elizabeth Barret Browning, “Let me count the ways”. It reminds me of the old cliché’ “they hit him till he bled and then they hit him for bleeding”.

This is the club that gave the members an operating head, Shane Eagan, a man who could give George Bush lessons in management: a club that alienated the members from the start by going back on their word, a club that continues to aggravate them by raising the initiation fees and dues to where it stands today, as the highest in the two counties. (Keep in mind, with a LBK Club membership, there is no money back.)

There are people who are not moving to the key because the golf is so much better at other spots in the two counties but there are also many potential golf members who are put off by the extremely high initiation fee. This is quite evident in looking at the numbers. Social memberships are keeping pace; it is the high cost of the full membership that is hurting. All they have to do is check the number of social members who were taking advantage of the free Fridays to see that many of these people do play golf. They just can’t justify paying so much at their age.

The Town Commission should not fall for this ploy. Admittedly there are problems with the condition of the course. To call it a golf course and not a cow pasture at the present time is being kind. The members would just like to see grass on the fairways, greens that are puttable and sand in the sand traps. They don’t need another swimming pool. Most of them already have one. They don’t need a meeting room, their condos already have them. They don’t need more restaurants they are hard pressed to use up their minimums now and would not be happy if additional dining facilities caused an additional amount added to the minimum.

They also do not need a Rees Jones tricked up golf course. If you think they do, ask the members of Laurel Oaks if they would rather have their Gary Player North Course back again. I was a LBK member for twenty years and I can say without any qualms, the average member of the Club doesn’t need it to be any tougher.

If Loeb Realty will get the right to set up a temporary reverse osmosis system that will get proper irrigation to allow the new grass to take hold, fix the greens and reline the sand traps, they will have done all that is required to meet the standards asked by the membership.

All of this brings us to the crux of the issue. Simply stated, there is nothing that needs to be done to the club that cannot be done under the current Outline Development Plan. Rather than start a controversy that will cost the residents of the affected areas a quarter of a million dollars in legal fees, jeopardize values and create a sense of uncertainty that will permeate the entire complex, the commissioners should make it clear that the ODP now in place, the same ODP that every home and condo buyer in the area depended upon when they purchased their homes and condos is not going to be amended.

The residents should at the same time, make it clear that if a commissioner does not want to bind himself or herself to such a pledge that they will receive opposition at the polls. I understand that a group of owners have already raised $100,000 for a Legal Defense Fund. There are also petitions from condo associations. Some of these concerned citizens should volunteer their time as well as their money and become involved politically. They certainly must attend the Commission meetings. Especially now that the Commission is taking back it’s authority over the site planning. I hold very little hope for any opposition coming from the P&Z Board since their absorption by the Chamber of Commerce.

It is ironic that we are having this discussion involving such a dramatic change in the character of the town after the P&Z Board has been talking about long range planning for the past two years and never once did they ask the question; what is the club planning? This is even more perplexing when as recently as four years ago, Mark Mashburn, Michael Welly’s former boss talked about the idea of building a hotel on the property that currently houses the Chart House.

As a result, in not taking into account any expansion by the golf club, the voters have already given their approval to the addition of 150 units and by allowing the tourist units to rebuild with their same density, added a potential 250 more units. Even if the Longboat Key Club application had real merit, this makes a difficult decision even more difficult. Under the circumstances, I think the Commission has no choice but to obey the will of the people and leave things the way they found them.

On the second front, the battle between the slip owners and the LBK Club has entered a “quiet period”. There is an understanding that while negotiations are continuing, there would be a lowering of the rhetoric. Meanwhile contributions to the legal defense fund are continuing.

It would seem to me that if the Club would withdraw its demand for the covenant and agree to a long term commitment to allow for a special membership at a guaranteed reduced price to future purchasers, the major obstacle would be removed and the Club would realize it’s aim of acquiring a long term membership base and retain the good will of the boaters.


May 15, 2008
Key Club Proposal Too Big,Some Say

Longboat resort plan is aleady under fire


Longboat Key – Nearly 800 condominium residents at the Longboat Key Club and Resort have banded together in opposition to the resort’s ambitious $500 million redevelopment plans.

Members of the Islandside Property Owners Coalition contend that the addition of 222 new hotel rooms, 261 new condominiums and 28,000 square feet of meeting spaces violates their property rights and the town’s zoning laws.

"We feel that the scale of the project is too massive for the site they are proposing to put it on", coalition chairman Bob White said Wednesday. "The scale of this is beyond anything I think people had envisioned." The condo owners have hired Michael Furen, a prominent land-use attorney and chairman of Sarasota’s Icard Merrill Cullis Timm Furen & Ginsburg law firm, to represent them.

Loeb Partners Realty, the giant New York-based real estate acquisition firm that bought the resort in 1990, unveiled plans last month that also include a revamped golf course, new spa and fitness center, and a new restaurant. At the time, Joseph S. Lesser, Loeb’s president and chief executive, said that the company could have built more but decided not to.

"We didn’t want to be too dense, because part of the attractiveness of the Longboat Key Club and hotel is that it is spread out and it gives you that feeling of space", Lesser said then. "We just wanted it to be a first-class operation and didn’t want to overcrowd it."

Michael Welly, general manager of the resort, said Wednesday that opposition is typical any time development is suggested for the Key. "Everything we are doing is legal to do and I would imagine that they could be influential, but could they stop us? I don’t see that," said Welly, adding that he plans to meet with all of those concerned to try to hash out the differences but that the new residences and amenities will be built.

"We’ve got a plan over the next six months to address any concerns our neighbors have for us," Welly said. "In the end if we still disagree then that will be it – we’ll disagree."

Loeb managers maintain that the improvements are vital for the resort to maintain its competitive edge after years of attracting customers with amenities built largely in the 1980’s.

Among the resident’s concerns are timing, the traffic that would be generated, the density of the project and zoning exemptions that would be needed. "They are proposing to rezone the recreational space inappropriately for tourism, commercial and residential and we feel that has potentially devastating and permanent consequences," said White, the association chairman.

The resort has a particular zoning category set up decades ago, between the town and Arvida, the resort’s original developer. That zoning does allow for the resort to ask to add units, but what is sure to be at the heart of future discussions is just what type of "unit" is allowable in terms of height, size, and density.

While White and his coalition are suspect of the timing of Loeb’s plans, the town’s zoning code prohibits land-use changes from even being officially discussed during the summer months. For town officials, the proposed redevelopment, is, at this point, a non-issue: There has been no application or plans filed yet.

"When they do submit it, it’s going to take a lot of staff time to review it," said Bruce St. Denis, Longboat’s town manager. "But they haven’t submitted a plan yet."


Closing Your Unit

Some Important Things To Remember:

Please clear your balconies of furniture,plants, any other decor

Remove perishables from refrigerator

Set your a/c no higher than 80 degrees, humidistat at 30%

Run your garbage disposal and make sure it is clean

Turn off water heater and circuit breakers

Turn off water

Unplug tv, clock radios, computers, and other electronic devices

Cancel newspaper deliveries

Leave a car key with the office for any vehicles left here over the summer

Arrange to have your unit inspected regularly to check for mold, leaks, or other damage



(Approved by Community Board 2/29/08)

1. Except in emergencies, meetings will be agenda-driven and free of extraneous items.

2. Given the goal of being deliberative, all agenda items will be known and worked on ahead of the meeting to avoid 'hip shoot' decisions.

3. Each agenda item will be first discussed by Board Members, THEN comments by owners taken individually and when recognized, THEN voted upon by Board Members.

4. In order to further improve communication with owners, the last 1/2 hour of each meeting will be devoted to an open forum for owner questions, suggestions, comments - written or verbal - to the Manager and/or the Board.

The Sanctuary at Longboat Key Club Community Association
537 Sanctuary Drive, Longboat Key, Florida 34228

Phone: 941-383-6021 • Fax: 941-387-8603

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