Developers want to level an Old Town trailer park to make way for 20 town homes, two- to three-bedroom units governed by a homeowners association that would replace the current 44 mobile homes.
The trailer park at 1015-1025 Simonton St., which sits across from the Gato Building, dates back at least 50 years and offers some of the most affordable housing on the island.
But while the developers, Southernmost Cabana Resort LLC -- owned by builder Joe Cleghorn and Kimberly Parker -- have already planted a large sign marking their territory, the project requires a lengthy review process that hasn't really started.
The park's residents don't have to worry about being thrown out into the street, developers say.
"We're going to take care of our people; we always have," said Cleghorn on Tuesday. "We will have a relocation team that works with people. All of the people can go to one of our properties and we'll give them three months' free rent."
Southernmost Cabana is going through the city approval process in an effort to protect its building rights and hasn't set any timetables for construction, he said.
Since the development is in the Historic District, the plans must secure approval from the city's Historic Architectural Review Commission before going to the Planning Board and then on to the City Commission, which has the final say.
"The way things work with HARC and the city, it could be six months or it could be six years," Cleghorn said.
He said he has several friends who live in the trailers, some of which are in rough shape.
"Some are really, really old and they're going to have to go," said Cleghorn. "They've been a great place for affordable housing. In Key West, the days of paying $800-$900 a month are about over."
The new homes aren't condominiums, because the owners of the town homes will also own the land beneath their houses, which could be stick-built or modular, said Cleghorn.
"The product is really the same under the building code," he said.
The proposal was on Thursday's meeting agenda for the Development Review Committee (DRC), but City Planner Don Craig tabled it, saying the builders' architect was unavailable to meet with city staff to go over some changes that Southernmost had brought up.
"It's not for a lack of footwork," said engineer Annalise Mannix, who is working on the development for Cleghorn's outfit.
The DRC board comprises mostly city staff that reviews and finalizes plans to make sure they meet city codes before submittal to HARC, which has voting power.
"The plans are not ready yet," said Craig.
"We need to have a set of plans that is not going to change."
Cleghorn needs the city to grant a special exception in order to include a driveway for each of the 10 homes planned to front Virginia Street.
"The code, as implemented, treats these homes differently than homes on the same street," wrote Mannix in the application to the city. "Other homes with adequate setbacks could, and many do, have off-street parking driveways for one vehicle."
Formed in March 2009, Cleghorn's company bought the trailer park property for $2.4 million a month later, county property records show. Prior to the sale, the land was owned by the Archdiocese of Miami.
Residents at what many call the Key West trailer park pay rent to Southernmost Cabana.
Cleghorn builds modular homes in the Florida Keys and has an office on North Roosevelt Boulevard for his Joe Cleghorn Homes company. He was an organizer in this year's home giveaway to a veteran.