Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
LPA opposes abandoning commercial allocation system

ISLAMORADA -- A proposal to do away with the allocation system that tightly limits commercial development in the village was roundly rejected by the town's Local Planning Agency earlier this month.

"This scares me," LPA member Barbara Knowles said at a Jan. 14 meeting.

Village Manager/Planning Director Ed Koconis had proposed eliminating the Nonresidential Building Permit Allocation System in response to a push from the new Village Council to make Islamorada's permitting and planning review process faster and less cumbersome.

Under existing village code, the town only accrues 6,692 square feet of new allocation rights annually. That rule has presented challenges over the past two years for proposed Winn-Dixie and Publix projects, and has also forced local businessman Monte Green to build a south Plantation Key storage facility in two phases.

But the council-appointed planning board chafed at the notion of simply eliminating the system, especially in the absence of detailed information on just how much could be built if it were gone.

Islamorada Principal Planner Cheryl Cioffari told LPA members that there is 200,000 square feet of vacant commercial land in the village, though regulations related to floor area ratios and habitat would limit what could actually be built on those sites. As of the Jan. 14 meeting, the planning department hadn't analyzed exactly how much commercial space could be built through redevelopment.

Koconis asked the LPA to table a vote until his staff assembled that data. But the planning board went forward anyway, voting 6-0 against the proposed ordinance.

"We want to help the business people," LPA Chairman John Fernandez said. "We want to do it in a managed way."

The LPA vote is not binding on the Village Council, which could still vote to eliminate the commercial BPAS system. However, Koconis pulled the proposed ordinance from the agenda of the Jan. 24 Village Council meeting, saying he wanted to assemble all the data first.

He also acknowledged the LPA's other concerns at the meeting, saying there are less sweeping steps that could be taken to ease restrictions on commercial development.

rsilk@keysnews.com

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