Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Friday, July 26, 2013
Rowell's Marina appraisals too low, owner complains

The appraisals for an Upper Keys bayfront property have come in lower than the owner would like.

Monroe County is considering purchasing the former Rowell's Marina, an 8-acre property at Mile Marker 104 owned by Jim Cohen. Two independent appraisals provided to the county Thursday show the property's value at $4.5 million and $5 million.

"These numbers are a little low," Cohen told The Citizen.

He said he plans on negotiating with County Administrator Roman Gastesi to come to a higher figure. Cohen also said he has other serious potential buyers, but declined to name them.

"We want to sell it as soon as possible," said Cohen, who is the president of a gelato company in Delray Beach.

Cohen declined to say how much he was asking, but County Commissioner David Rice said $6 million is the number that has been floated around.

Gastesi said in the coming days he will review the appraisals and speak with each commissioner individually.

In a 47-page review, Callaway and Price Inc., of West Palm Beach, estimated the property to be valued at $4.5 million. The appraisal did not reflect any environmental cleanup issues. However, it did say a dilapidated building would have to be improved, replaced or removed.

The county's second formal appraisal from James Wilson's Appraisal Co. of Key West was not yet available. But in an email to Gastesi on Thursday, Wilson estimated the land's value to be $5 million.

Rice said if Cohen has a reasonable complaint that the figures are too low, the commission could look to a third appraisal company. The county paid $6,700 for the appraisals; it's a standard practice to get two appraisals on property valued over $500,000.

After the death of their father, the Rowell children in 2005 sold the marina and property to Boca Developers for $6.5 million. The next year, Boca Developers sought approval from the county to transfer development rights from a Big Pine Key trailer park to the Key Largo property in order to build condominiums and estate homes there.

The county, though, would not go along with converting affordable housing units to upscale condominiums. Nothing was ever built and the property remains almost entirely open space.

Over the years, the property has played host to large community events, including chili cookoffs, craft beer and seafood festivals, and carnivals.

The Key Largo Chamber of Commerce and other local groups have previously urged the county to purchase and preserve the property. The chamber has offered the commission a resolution supporting the purchase.

County Commissioner Sylvia Murphy, who represents Key Largo, could not be reached for comment. Murphy has told The Citizen that her interests are in finishing the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater Management System before putting money into parks and recreation.

Murphy also said if the county does decide to purchase the property, it would form local committees to determine the property's purpose.

Rowell's Marina is one of three Keyswide projects the county is considering after approving $38 million in capital projects; $33 million comes from a sales tax that funds infrastructure, and the county will borrow the rest.

In the Middle Keys, purchasing the Old Seven Mile Bridge is on the table, and in Key West, officials are considering funding the multiyear Higgs Beach Master Plan.

The county will discuss the issue during its budget meetings set for 9 a.m. Monday and Tuesday at the Harvey Government Center, 1200 Truman Ave. in Key West.

jgore@keysnews.com

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