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Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Box store needs many improvements

Developers will have to build $375,000 to $1.8 million worth of public meeting spaces, bike paths, library and postal annexes and other "public improvements" on Rockland Key if they want to place a large strip mall there, according to Monroe County planning staff recommendations.

The Monroe County Commission will vote Wednesday on creating a new "overlay district" for a 33-acre parcel on Rockland Key that would change the land-use from industrial to commercial, which would allow the developers to build a strip mall. The commission will have to vote on the land designation change twice in order for it to be ratified. The commission is tentatively scheduled to vote on it again in March.

The Savannah, Ga.-based development group A.J. & C. Garfunkel is working with property owners William Kemp and Steve Henson on the project. They want to replace the aging gravel pits, an adult bookstore and a tow yard on Rockland Keys with a large shopping complex.

The developers have talked with executives from such notable chain stores as Target, Old Navy, Toys R Us and Bed, Bath and Beyond. But for those stores to be built, county planning staff is calling for public meeting/multi-use rooms, bike paths, a sheriff's substation, covered bus stop and other public facilities. The amount of public space set aside depends on how large development is and county planning staff has proposed four scenarios that call for $375,000 to $1.8 million worth of public facilities.

Developers have tentatively agreed to set aside roughly 5 percent of the property for public use or public facilities.

County planning staff and the developers have been at odds about how much development should be allowed. Staff wants the commercial complex to be limited to 300,000 square feet, and each building limited to 125,000 square feet. However, developers wanted land-use rules that would allow the complex to be at least 400,000 square feet and each building be at least 240,000 square feet. They argue 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 a building that houses one 140,000-square-foot store and two other 50,000 square-foot stores, said Owen Trepanier, a planner for the developers.

In November, the county's Planning Commission agreed to allow the entire complex to be 400,000 square feet and each building be 140,000 square feet.

By comparison, the Winn Dixie Shopping Center on Big Pine Key is 92,000 square feet with each building being limited to 68,000 square feet. The Trade Winds Shopping Complex in Key Largo is 195,000, with each building being limited to 90,000 square feet. The Tavernier Towne Center is 108,000 square feet and building size is limited to 82,000 square feet.

The County Commission will meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Harvey Government Center, 1200 Truman Ave., Key West.

tohara@keysnews.com

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