Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Supporters of Rowell's deal offering opinions prior to vote

KEY LARGO -- A group advocating more county spending in Key Largo will make a final push next Tuesday to convince the Monroe County Commission to purchase Rowell's Marina.

Fair Share for Key Largo will be meeting at the Key Largo Lions Club at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 19, which is the eve of the commission's vote to OK the purchase of the 8-acre bayfront property at mile marker 104. Attending will County Commissioner Heather Carruthers, who has set herself up as the deciding vote on the purchase.

Because the purchase price of Rowell's Marina is higher than the average of two appraisals, at least four of the five commissioners must approve. Commissioner Danny Kolhage has been a staunch dissenter throughout discussions, saying such money should be spent on road and bridge improvements. The Lower Keys politician has shown no signs of changing his mind.

During a September vote to make an offer on the property, Carruthers offered her support with the caveat that County Administrator Roman Gastesi prepare and return an operations and financial plan before the final vote on buying it.

County Administrator Roman Gastesi did not provide the Free Press with potential revenue numbers prior to press time. He also did not respond to a question about the potential cost of removing an existing structure and docks.

A proposed design for the property shows a picnic area, beach and paved lot as well as overflow parking on grass. It also shows room for food trucks and tents for large events, such as beer and seafood festivals, which the property often hosts.

Local developer Jim Saunders, who has long called for the county to purchase the property, said the public has overwhelmingly decided against having any marina docking or boat-trailer parking. Having a working marina was one potential source of revenue as well as a place for liveaboards.

The county Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, however, passed a motion last week to support the purchase of Rowell's Marina but without plans for a marina. Jim Boilini, a committee member, said that the dock facilities should be replaced with a launch for kayaks and canoes. Potential revenues would include food truck leases and admission fees for non-county residents, the committee suggested.

As for any possibly environmental issues with the property, Gastesi has previously said he is satisfied there are none. A recent environmental report found an underground fuel tank, which had been filled with concrete, but said no additional action was needed.

The vote to purchase Rowell's will take place at the Murray E. Nelson Government and Cultural Center at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20.


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