Plans for a new West Marine store on Caroline Street and dock rebuilding by a private marina -- a source of concern to operators of the city's own historic marina, which neighbors the property -- are among items under discussion today by the board that oversees the city bight operation.
The Key West Bight Board will view a presentation from the privately owned Conch Harbor Retail Center and Marina of a proposed West Marine store on Caroline Street. No action will be taken by the board.
Conch Harbor includes two restaurants and a bar as well as a fuel dock and other docking facilities.
Conch Harbor owner Craig Hunt said Tuesday that what he plans at waterside is "more of a re-configuration than an expansion."
"We will end up with no more area coverage than what we have today but it would make it more workable," Hunt said, explaining that an important element of the new dock would be the ability to fuel vessels with deeper drafts than currently able.
"It will move our gas station into 20 feet of water," said Hunt. "Quite often boats passing Key West will ask can you put in a thousand gallons and there is nobody on the Bight that can do that." Boats requiring that much fuel generally have too deep a draft to utilize current pumps.
Conch Harbor owns the bottom that lies below the proposed dock, to which the city has objected.
"The City of Key West could be adversely impacted by the expansion ... as navigation will be impeded or otherwise denied," Key West Bight Manager Mark Tait wrote in a letter of objection to the Department of Environmental Protection dated Jan. 3.
City officials say Conch Harbor's claim of water-bottom ownership outside their shore is fairly undisputed.
Although objections were filed with the DEP, no answers to them have been received. The agency did grant a permit to Conch Harbor, however, with no changes in the specifications to which the city objected.
"Last week staff received a final permit from DEP allowing the expansion of Conch Harbor's dock with no changes to the original permit application," Key West Property Manager Marilyn Wilbarger stated in a letter to staff. "It appears that the City of Key West could appeal the permit but its objections would be the same as already cited."
Staff has received no notice that the Army Corps of Engineers has approved their permit.
A key objection from the city's perspective is that boats crossing into Conch Harbor will be required, because of the layout, to traverse waters that lie over bottom that belongs to the Key West Bight.
Liability issues are among the concerns that have been raised.
Conch Harbor's plans to build a new West Marine store on property at the corner of Caroline and Grinnell streets have met with few objections thus far.
West Marine has been on Caroline Street for 18 years, at the corner of William Street.
The nationwide company, Hunt said, is expanding a new type of prototype store nationwide and Key West was chosen as one of the spots. The building will be an estimated 13,000 square feet.
"They'll do all the same stuff they do today but offer a lot more clothing and lifestyle products," Hunt said. "We are so happy we can keep it on Caroline Street and the Bight."
The board will also review the proposed lease agreement for a brewery and restaurant at the old Waterfront Market site, which is set at an annual minimum of $21 per net square foot, to be adjusted annually on the basis of an agreed-to Consumer Price Index.
The lease, between the developer and the city, specifies that amplified music is permitted "so long as the volume of the amplified music does not unreasonably disturb or interfere with neighboring tenants or property owners."
Music from the rooftop bar of the proposed brewery had been of concern to neighbors, although some who had objections said plans for decibel reduction and a promise of music that would not be unduly loud had satisfied them.
The Bight Board's actions are still subject, ultimately, to City Commission approval.