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Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Plenty of ideas, desires, presented at Rowell's meeting

Jogging trails, parking spaces and floating docks were some of the ideas tossed around at the first meeting about redeveloping a bayfront property the county is close to purchasing.

But the resounding point was residents wanted open space with a waterfront view from the highway.

The discussion took place Monday evening at the Monroe County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board's first meeting about the future of Rowell's Marina.

The County Commission last month voted 4-1, with Danny Kolhage dissenting, to purchase the 8-acre property for $5 million, contingent upon a clean title, clear environmental assessment and an operations plan from County Administrator Roman Gastesi's office.

Gastesi told the few dozen residents in attendance that an environmental report came back with few problems. County Engineer Kevin Wilson said the property has been given a clean bill of health. The Citizen was not able to review the report before press time.

Wilson, however, said it is not known yet whether a concrete structure built in the 1970s would have to be demolished. Existing docks may also have to be removed.

Putting an operations plan together is Gastesi's last challenge in acquiring the Mile Marker 104 property. To do so, he is gathering public input. Ideas offered Monday included boat ramps, a public beach, kayak put-ins and possibly a tour boat to take people into Everglades National Park.

Advisory board member Steve Miller cautioned that creating a beach would need the approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which could be time consuming.

"If we can't get it all, that's not the worst thing in the world," said Key Largo resident Jim Saunders, who has campaigned for the property purchase for many years.

But resident Tom Jeanguenat, who once worked on the property, said county officials need to carefully review the environmental report. Jeanguenat was the only person who spoke against purchasing the property.

"I can easily see us putting another $5 million into this property," he said.

A lawyer representing the neighboring condominium complex was concerned the redevelopment of the property could eventually lead trespassers into Tamarind Bay Condominiums.

Attorney Rob Stober said during past events on the Rowell's property people have jumped the fence to use the condominium's pool. He also added the condo's residents aren't pleased they could have to deal with light intrusion and noise issues.

"This stuff doesn't make the news," Stober said. "It makes the police report."

Gastesi told the attendees he needs their support at the Nov. 20 County Commission meeting when he is to present his operations plan. No date has been set for the advisory board's next Rowell's meeting.

jgore@keysnews.com

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