Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Planning board rejects eco-resort designation

ISLAMORADA -- A development team striving to build a 40- to 70-unit eco-themed resort on Upper Matecumbe Key is considering its next move after suffering a defeat at the hands of the village's Local Planning Agency last week, Islamorada Ecolodge agent Rand Gentry said.

"We have a lot of belief that this is something that would be very good for the village, and once it is in place they will be very proud of it," said Gentry, who works for Fort Lauderdale-based design consultant EDSA. Bonefish Holdings, owned by Coral Springs urologist Albert Vortsman, is the project's would-be developer.

On April 10, the LPA voted 5-0 against a proposal from the Ecolodge team for the creation of an Eco-Sustainable Lodging designation in the village. The designation would have allowed for the construction of up to 10 units per acre in the tourist commercial zoning district for projects that meet environmentally friendly standards relating to habitat restoration and building materials. At present, the village only allows six units per acre in that zoning category.

In practice, however, said LPA member Jim Mooney, the change would only have affected the 8-acre property at mile marker 83 where the Islamorada Ecolodge would be located.

"Nothing against the project itself, it's pretty cool," Mooney said. "But when you change the [comprehensive land-use] plan for one person, that's a slippery slope."

Mooney added that the proposed hotel just seems too big to truly be an eco-lodge. Those are typically 25 rooms or less, he said.

The village planning department also opposed creation of Eco-Sustainable designation.

Neither the staff recommendation nor the decision of the LPA is binding on the Village Council, which will still hold a vote on the proposed Eco-Sustainable Lodging designation unless the Islamorada Ecolodge team decides to change course.

Even with approval of the designation, however, Bonefish Holdings would still face building rights and zoning challenges.

rsilk@keysnews.com

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