Florida Keys News
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
County to decide on Rowell's Marina

The Monroe County Commission will decide next week whether to give the county administrator the authority to negotiate a contract to buy Rowell's Marina in Key Largo.

The county is considering the purchase and has had two appraisals done for the property.

Callaway and Price Inc. of West Palm Beach valued the property at $4.5 million. James Wilson's Appraisal Co. of Key West estimated the land's value to be $5 million.

Rowell's Marina owner, Jim Cohen, has declined to say how much he is asking for the 8-acre, bayfront property, but County Commissioner David Rice said $6 million is a figure that has been discussed.

Neither of the estimates included costs for environmental assessment and cleanup, but County Administrator Roman Gastesi said such an assessment would have to be done before the property changed hands. An assessment was done in the past with no major issues cited, but it would have to be updated, Gastesi said.

Part of the negotiations would be deciding who pays for the environmental assessment and cleanup, Gastesi said.

The commission will discuss and decide whether to give Gastesi the authority when it meets Aug. 21 at the Murray Government Center in Key Largo.

County Commissioner Heather Carruthers said she wants to see a long-term development and maintenance plan for the marina, which could include cost estimates, before the County Commission gives the administrator the go-ahead.

"I'm not philosophically opposed to it, but I think more homework needs to be done," Carruthers said. "What exactly are we going to do with it? We don't know how all the parts are going to come together. I don't want to say Hickory House."

The county purchased the Hickory House on Stock Island in 2006 for $3.1 million and has been trying to sell or lease the property for nearly five years, but has not found an investor willing to pay anything close to the purchase price.

Monroe County is also about to embark on an aggressive road and bridge project master plan and is in the middle of a multimillion dollar sewer project. Carruthers said she is concerned about ongoing costs associated with all of the projects.

Commissioner Sylvia Murphy and County Mayor George Neugent said many people in Key Largo support the purchase. The public wants a considerable amount of the property kept open and used to hold special events, said Murphy, who represents Key Largo. The property has been used in the past for seafood festivals and other gatherings.

"It's part of the community and we would hate to see a bunch of condos placed there," Murphy said.

If the property is purchased, the county Park & Recreation Advisory Board would hold meetings in Key Largo to decide what to do with the property, Murphy said.

"It could be a tremendous asset to the community," Neugent said.

tohara@keysnews.com

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