Now that the Key West City Commission has approved a final plan for the Truman Waterfront land it was granted by the Navy 15 years ago, the most significant hurdle could be the Navy itself.
Both city officials and Navy representatives say they are working together in a spirit of cooperation to make the plan work for both entities.
"We are committed to working with the city," said Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West Executive Director Ron Demes.
But there could be some significant impasses, and a crucial element of the waterfront park's design -- creation of a marina that would be its economic centerpiece -- could be the first stumbling block.
"Development of the marina at the Truman Waterfront has always been the economic generator that allowed the improvement and maintenance of the upland space," Mayor Craig Cates told NAS Key West's commander, Capt. Pat Lefere, in a letter dated Tuesday. "While the City recognizes the necessity of appropriate security procedures as dictated by national security demands, I'm sure the Navy can appreciate any negative impact to the expected revenues from the marina would have an adverse effect upon the Truman Property as a whole."
The rules of engagement for the city regarding the waterfront are contained in a 63-page deed, the road map Navy officials will use as they scrutinize the Truman Waterfront plan, a task which must be performed within 90 days of a final plan coming into the Navy's hands.
The clock on that portion of the process has not yet begun ticking, said Demes.
Meanwhile Navy officials and the city will continue discussions to find what will most likely work for both.
Demes said the proposed marina -- which would be leased by the city to a private operator -- is problematic because more Navy vessels will likely be in the Truman Harbor area in the future.
"We have destroyers and cruisers with a large turning radius," said Demes. "We are looking at operations in the harbor."
Diving operations, Demes said, are also common in the waters abutting the Truman property, which the Navy leases from the state of Florida. That lease will remain in place until the year 2034.
The Navy's interest in interdiction of drugs, people and arms that threaten the U.S. in Caribbean waters is long-standing, according to its officials. But it was not until the harbor abutting the Truman land was dredged, a project completed in 2006, that the Southernmost City's role in those operations could come to full fruition.
Lefere made clear in a letter to Key West officials that, while wishing to work with them, he also must defend the Navy's position on key elements of the Truman plan.
"The Navy currently conducts strategically significant surface operations and subsurface training within Truman Harbor. Non-Federal boat operations within the harbor may restrict or prohibit naval surface vessel maneuvering and dive training," Lefere wrote to the City Commission and Cates. "Furthermore, Truman Harbor is a federally designated restricted area and private vessel access and transit are limited. Therefore, we respectfully request the City factor the Navy's Submerged Lands Lease, the Navy's operations and training, and the federally designated restricted area into any further discussions regarding the Truman Waterfront Development Plan."
Additional caveats concerning use of the waterfront, contained in the deed restrictions, include bans on certain types of radio transmissions and the use of arc welding equipment. That relates to interference with Navy communications, Demes said.
Other elements, such as the amphitheater, sports fields and a planned community center are not likely to result in problems for the Navy.
But nothing can really be determined, Demes said, until the Navy has had its opportunity for review.
A representative of Spottswood Cos. -- related to the Meisel & Spottswood Marina Management Co. -- did not return a call Friday, although an executive there said meetings about the project were held all week.
Meisel & Spottswood is the private developer planning to build and manage the proposed marina.
Demes said that while there will be issues to overcome, including promised access from one point of the property to the other for the Navy, he has no doubt agreements can be successfully reached.