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Florida Keys News
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Event vote no party for promoter

ISLAMORADA -- The Village Council decided last week to allow a Fort Lauderdale promoter to hold a series of Caribbean music parties at bars on Upper Matecumbe and Windley keys on the weekend that begins Nov. 1, reversing a decision from late September.

But council members only approved temporary-use permits for Beach Road Trip after putting the promoter through the ringer.

"You've jumped through more hoops than I've seen anybody standing there," acknowledged Councilman Mike Forster at the Oct. 10 meeting.

In approving the promotion, the council also imposed numerous restraints on the already scaled-back plan of Beach Road Trip organizer Hans Mullings.

They forbade a planned barge event in the ocean just off Whale Harbor.

They told Mullings that the four buses he has chartered to take an estimated 250 attendees to events on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, and an estimated 500 attendees to an event on Nov. 3, must not go on the Old Highway.

They limited noise levels to 80 decibels.

They required Mullings to put rebar and caution tape around sewer construction equipment that is expected to be in portions of the Windley Key median that weekend.

They prohibited Beach Road Trip attendees from parking in certain areas of the Windley Key median, as well as on the northern bayside portion of Upper Matecumbe Key.

And they said no to a planned Nov. 3 reggae show in the main quarry at Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park.

Promoters hope to hold that final concert instead on a vacant bayside property at mile marker 82.7.

The many restrictions came on top of changes Mullings had already made in the aftermath of the council's Sept. 26 decision to deny the event permit. Mullings didn't attend the hearing that day. The reason, he explained last week, is that he got into a car accident on the way south from Fort Lauderdale.

In addition to arranging the buses, before last week's meeting Mullings had lined up three private parking lots for his patrons to use. He had arranged for security guards. And he had dropped Smuggler's Cove as a Beach Road Trip venue.

That final concession was a nod toward the first Beach Road Trip, held last year, when a Sunday night Smuggler's Cove party drew noise complaints that led to a visit from sheriff's deputies. When Mullings decided to end the party early because of the problem, he explained, his attendees walked across the highway to Hog Heaven, causing a five-minute traffic delay.

Village Manager Ed Koconis approved permits for the 2012 event at the administrative level. But because the matter figured to be controversial, he decided to put the permits for this year's version before the Village Council.

Beach Road Trip has been promoted on at least one website as "a large group of people taking a road trip to party on the beach, night and day." But Mullings sought to assure the council that the event will be peopled by young professionals. Tickets cost $200. And drinking, he said, will be under control.

"We love your city, that's why we're here," Mullings said. "We're not here to rape and pillage."

Local merchants, including Drop Anchor Resort owner Steve Kurutz, spoke in favor of the Caribbean concert weekend, saying it would help the economy during the down season. Last year many Beach Road Trip attendees stayed at Drop Anchor, Kurutz said, and they were excellent guests.

But some village residents, most notably Venetian Shores resident Cheryl Culberson, took a different view. The events, she said, would cause traffic hang-ups, noise disturbances, public safety issues and disrupt that weekend's Redbone charity fishing tournament.

"I'm not going to put up with it again. Let me make that very clear," Culberson said, referencing the noise problem last year at Smuggler's Cove.

For most of the evening council members largely took Culberson's view. When it appeared they were on the cusp of rejecting the permits, despite Mullings' repeated offers to accommodate a plethora of concerns, he grew frustrated.

Why, he asked the council, do they have so many issues with this event, when weddings of similar size are held in Islamorada all the time.

"We're not the same people as Memorial [Day]," he said, in a possible reference to Miami Beach's much maligned Urban Beach Week, an annual hip- hop festival. "And if you're classing us as one and saying those kind of people...."

The "those kind of people" reference provoked a sharp interruption and rebuke from Mayor Ken Philipson.

"Don't ever say that, that's not proper," he said. "We didn't say that. We never insinuated that."

After a break that shortly followed that exchange, council members decided to approve the temporary-use permits, with the numerous restrictions. Better to do that, they argued, than to say no, especially since village code would allow Mullings to hold the various parties without any permit as long as they were attended by 249 people or less.

Moments later, outside the meeting hall, Culberson gave Mullings one last tongue lashing. Keep the noise at the levels the council approved, she said sternly, or she'll go after a court injunction.

In other action last week, the council approved a contract for incoming Village Attorney Roget Bryan. He'll make $140,000 per year. Bryan is slated to assume the post in December.

Also, the council agreed to a $215,000 purchase of a one-third acre property on the southern edge of the Islander Resort. The site will house a vacuum station for the village sewer system. The village is also close to acquiring its final vacuum station site, on Lower Matecumbe, Wastewater Program Manager Greg Tindle said.

rsilk@keysnews.com

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