Colony Resort on Longboat deemed unsafe

jsalman@bradenton.comSeptember 20, 2012 

LONGBOAT KEY -- The Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key may have hosted its final stay.

Town officials posted warning signs at the blighted resort this month after the property's mid-rise condo tower was deemed unsafe following an inspection ordered by Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

Original resort developer and the last remaining resident, Murray Klauber, was chased from the site by mold.

"It's a health issue," said Robin Meyer, director of Longboat's Planning, Zoning and Building Department. "We will not let anyone go into any of the buildings at this time."

Developed in the early 1970s, units at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort were sold similar to timeshares. Buyers would gain access to a condo for 30 days out of the year. The rest of the time, it would be used for short-term rentals.

The once popular resort has mostly been deserted since 2010, when everything from the floors to electric and plumbing fell into disrepair to the point where it became unlivable.

The on-site restaurant closed, tennis courts became overrun with weeds, and condo owners were forced to vacation elsewhere.

An ongoing court battled waged between the residents and developers has yet to shed much light on who's responsible for the estimated $12 to $14 million worth of maintenance needed to bring the property into full compliance, Meyer said.

Lighthouse Property Management, which runs the resort, declined to comment Wednesday. Donald Hemke, an attorney representing the owners there, also did not return calls made to his Tampa law firm.

If the condo association can't make the resort habitable by the end of the year, it will be in danger of losing density rights grandfathered 40 years ago.

That would make more than half of the units vanish even if they were repaired after the first of the year because nobody could lawfully live in them.

"These units have owners, and that would be a horrible thing to happen, but I don't control that," Meyer said. "At the end of the day, that's something the developers and residents have to work out. It's not something we can do for them. Our job is just to make sure they're safe."

The inspection by ProNet Group Inc. early this month found the steel bar joints now supporting the

property's six-story hotel were severely corroded, with the floor framing system no longer adequate to support weight as originally designed.

An engineering review provided to the town planning department Sept. 15 by the condo association highlighted many of the same problems.

The 14-page report said in order to feasibly reopen the breach-front mid-rise, repairs also were needed to the north elevator, plumbing and generator system, among others. Water intrusion mitigation and mold remediation have made the building "potentially hazardous."

The town now will let not anybody in the mid-rise, or any other structure on the property, until a professional engineer documents that the units are safe.

FEMA rules mandate any improvements must stay below 50 percent of the structure's value or the entire building must be brought to current code, which would require raising all of the structures at least 15 feet for flood elevation.

That 50 percent rule includes values of all of the units in the building minus land.

If it can't be done by the end of the year, the current zoning will expire, slashing about 130 of the resort's 237 total units from the books.

The town commission will meet Monday to hear a request by the condo owners to postpone the automatic zoning change for another 18 months.

"It's a real entangled mess," Longboat Key Mayor Jim Brown said. "I don't believe they have gone about resolving the issues very well. You have to get all of the players at a table to discuss the situation, and that hasn't happened in two and a half years."

Josh Salman, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @JoshSalman.

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