Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
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Market developer back for footage

ISLAMORADA -- A development company that in February lost its building rights for an Upper Matecumbe Key Winn-Dixie under financial duress is scheduled to go back before the Village Council this week to request a renewed building allocation.

Net Five-FDA is once again seeking 15,561 square feet of development rights for the mile marker 81 market site. The allocation, which the council will vote on during its meeting Thursday, May 9, would augment existing building rights on the property, allowing for construction of the proposed 29,000-square-foot Winn-Dixie.

There are no commercial property owners competing against Net Five for the allocation during this quarter.

The allocation hearing comes just less than a month after Net Five and lender Preferred Income Partners IV reached an agreement under the auspices of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Jacksonville that apparently has allowed Net Five to retain control of the Winn-Dixie site. Details of the agreement are sealed under court order.

Two months before the deal, Preferred Income had asked the court to dismiss the bankruptcy case, arguing that Net Five was using it as a vehicle to delay actions taken in state court. As evidence, attorney Scott Underwood cited the timing of Net Five's bankruptcy filing -- on Jan. 8, the day that Preferred Income purchased the Winn-Dixie property in a Key West foreclosure auction.

Bankruptcy cases, which are federal, supersede state-administered foreclosure cases. Preferred Income brought the foreclosure case against Net Five in February 2011 after the developer failed to make payment on a $2.92 million mortgage.

Thursday's Village Council hearing could feel like déjà vu to some. Council members originally awarded the Winn-Dixie allocation to Net Five last June. But the award expired on Feb. 6 after the company didn't obtain a building permit in time. Permits were denied because Net Five failed to either secure a cross-access agreement or purchase the neighboring Galleria property and failed to purchase the home of neighboring property owner Bob Johnson -- steps that were required under the company's 2011 site plan approval.

Both Winn-Dixie and Publix have been struggling for years to locate a market in Islamorada. A proposed mile marker 82.5 Publix is also working its way through the planning process. But that project has encountered resistance from the neighboring Island Community Church and some nearby homeowners, who don't want Russell Street, to the south of the market, to be used as the entrance point.

Also on Thursday, council members will weigh in on the scathing report delivered two weeks ago by the village's ad-hoc planning services committee. The five-man committee, made up of individuals associated with the local building industry, concluded that the town's planning process is an inefficient one overseen by impolite staff. Among their numerous recommendations is that Village Manager Ed Koconis be relieved of his second portfolio as planning director and be replaced with someone who can do the job full-time.

The May 9 meeting will also feature a Village Council discussion about the Everglades National Park proposal to forbid combustible motor use in one third of Florida Bay. No formal resolution on the issue had been prepared by Monday, but Councilman Dave Purdo said he wants the council to vote on its opposition to the potential closures ahead of the May 12 conclusion of the park service's public comment process.

Local fishing guides say the proposal will be devastating for business.

Also scheduled for the Thursday meeting:

• A final vote on an ordinance that would require lenders to register foreclosure properties with the village as well as pay a $200 annual fee. The village says the ordinance would make it easier to deal with distressed properties that become an eyesore.

• A vote on a proposed lawsuit settlement between the village and Gary and Jeanne Zaret, which would recognize the Zarets' property as a live-aboard marina.

rsilk@keysnews.com

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