Florida Keys News
Thursday, December 27, 2012
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County will consider size of strip mall and its stores

The Monroe County Commission might have two options to consider when voting next month on changing the land-use designation for 33-acre parcel on Rockland Key where developers want to build a strip mall.

County planning staff initially recommended the commercial complex be limited to 300,000 square feet, but developers wanted land-use rules that would allow 503,000 to 646,000 square feet of commercial space.

Last month, the Planning Commission considered both recommendations and suggested a cap of 400,000 square feet. In a staff report to the County Commission, Planning and Development Review Manager Joseph Haberman said "following a further review of the data and analysis, will decide whether to recommend 300,000 square feet or 400,000 square feet."

The County Commission will vote Jan. 16 on the square footage and other proposed land-use changes for Rockland Key that would set up a "commercial retail center overlay district." The 33 acres is currently zoned industrial, which severely limits commercial businesses. The commission will vote on an associated map amendment application at its March 20 meeting, Haberman said.

The developers and county planners have also been at odds over the size of the buildings. The Planning Commission recommended the buildings be limited to 140,000 square feet. The developers proposed keeping individual stores to 140,000 square feet. They argued that some of the buildings need to be bigger than 140,000 square feet as they will house more than one store.

Executives with the national retail chain Target have told developers they would need 140,000 square feet, and would need to be in the same building with two other 50,000 square-foot stores, said Owen Trepanier, an urban planner working with the developers.

The Savannah, Ga.-based development group A.J. & C. Garfunkel is working with property owners William Kemp and Steve Henson on the project.

The complex would replace aging gravel pits, an adult bookstore and a tow yard.

The developers have talked with executives from such notable chain stores as Target, Old Navy, Toys R Us and Bed, Bath and Beyond.

However, no company has been willing to commit until the property owners secured the proper land-use category for a shopping complex.

The developers have tentatively agreed to set aside land for a public meeting room and are talking with residents of nearby Big Coppitt, Cudjoe and Sugarloaf keys about renting small commercial spaces to such service professions as hair salons.

"People have to go all the way to Key West to get a haircut," Trepanier said. "I think we can work everything out and come up with something that everyone is happy with. It's so rare to have a project that matches what the community wants and is in the best location."

tohara@keysnews.com

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