Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
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Council to study impact of proposed liquor law

ISLAMORADA -- The village might soon join the ranks of Florida Keys cities that regulate alcohol sales close to schools and churches.

"I think the intent is very good," Mayor Ted Blackburn said at the Jan. 23 Village Council meeting.

But, at the advice of Village Attorney Roget Bryan, the council decided to make no such move before the Islamorada Planning Department researches the impact that a prohibition of various distances would have.

"There's no one-size-fits-all solution," Bryan said.

For example, Key West's liquor ordinance limits sales within 300 feet of a school or a church. Layton has a 1,000-foot prohibition and Marathon casts a 1,500-foot net.

A 1,500-foot prohibition was the proposal Councilman Ken Philipson brought to the meeting last week. But the council agreed that it's important to analyze the impact specific distances would have on various portions of the Islamorada commercial corridor.

Existing businesses with a liquor license would be exempted from any new law, council members said, though they didn't discuss whether that grandfathering would stay with a location when a business closes.

Philipson brought forth the proposal to toughen the village's alcohol sales ordinance in response to the council's approval last month of a Publix market on Upper Matecumbe Key, immediately across Russell Street from Island Community Church.

The ordinance wouldn't impact Publix of other projects already in the pipeline.

In a separate matter last week, the council endorsed a proposal by the village's nearshore water regulations committee for the posting of four signs in and around Bucky's Wheel Ditch off Lower Matecumbe Key.

The committee suggests posting signs at both entrances to the quarter-mile-long mangrove cut telling boaters to go to idle speed. It also suggests posting danger signs on both sides of the turn in the middle of the cut. However, it does not propose making the wheel ditch an official idle speed zone.

The man-made channel lies in Florida Park Service-controlled waters on the bayside, not far from Robbie's Marina. But both park service and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials have said they are likely to go along with the wishes of the village.

Many wheel ditch users, including FWC Capt. David Dipre, are concerned that poor sight lines within the cut makes it an accident waiting to happen.

Also last Thursday, the council stopped short of agreeing to contribute money to a Monroe County Health Department survey and study of Plantation Key residents. But council members didn't say no, either.

Instead, the health department plans to hold a meeting of Plantation Key residents, using only state funds, in order to learn about community concerns. The department will then fold those concerns into a work plan for the study, which it will bring back to the council for consideration.

The department wants to conduct the study because census figures show that Plantation Key has the second highest death rate of the Keys' 25 census tracts. Because a closer look at the figures shows the rate is only higher than other areas for people older than 65, one popular theory is that the presence of the Plantation Key Nursing Center, one of only two nursing homes in the Keys, might be skewing the numbers.

The village's share of the study would be $43,000.

Finally last Thursday, the council directed Parks Director John Sutter to bring back revenue and cost projections for a proposal to meter the 24 parking spaces at the two Anne's Beach parking lots.

Supporters of the meters say they would provide cost recovery for a part-time staff member the village recently brought on to patrol the Lower Matecumbe park on weekends. Opponents say the meters aren't in accord with the village's small-town character.

rsilk@keysnews.com

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