June 19, 2017

The Key West City Commission will decide whether to grant a special event permit to the controversial Phil Peterson Poker Run at its regular meeting Tuesday at City Hall.

A decision on the application was postponed at the June 6 meeting to allow organizers a chance to find a local organization willing to handle sales, safety and other aspects of the Miami to Key West event. The Sunrise Rotary Club decided last fall to pull out over concerns and the lack of return on the hundreds of volunteer hours expended.

Bikers will ride into the city for the September event regardless of permits and if a local organizer cannot be found, the city will face decisions on how to oversee the unofficial event, Assistant City Manager Greg Veliz told a crowd gathered at a community meeting Thursday.

“They’re going to come no matter what,” Veliz said. “My concern is about who will manage this event when the motorcycles arrive the third weekend in September.”

Community support is mixed, with opposition citing last year’s motorcycle gang affiliated bar brawl and the increased presence of gang members at the event while many Old Town businesses have expressed support for the Poker Run because of the revenue it generates during one of the island’s slowest months.

The board will also rule on an appeal of a Planning Board decision to allow an Eaton Street wine store to operate within 300 feet of two churches.

Nearby Elizabeth Street church the Christian Science Society appealed the April approval because of potential vagrancy issues resulting from free wine tastings at the store and concerns over whether the store owners will follow conditions set by the planning board, according to Christian Science Society Chairman Philip Sheldon.

In addition, the commission will discuss a resolution sponsored by Clayton Lopez and Jimmy Weekley calling for Key West to adhere to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, despite the U.S. withdrawal from the pact.

“The City Commission of the City of Key West recognizes the need for an effective and progressive response to the urgent threat of climate change based on the best available scientific knowledge,” the resolution states.

New franchise agreements with Key West siteseeing companies will also go before the board, in addition to zoning ordinances that will clear the way for city-owned housing projects on Stock Island.

The board will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday and reconvene at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday for a public workshop on the proposal to construct two Old Town parking garages.

sunger@keysnews.com