Florida Keys News
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Decision time for housing project

KEY LARGO -- The Monroe County Planning Commission will meet at 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 15, in the Murray E. Nelson Government and Cultural Center to determine the future of a proposed senior housing project.

Up for approval will be Gorman Co.'s request for a minor conditional use permit to build a 48-unit senior housing complex at mile marker 106. The meeting is a continuation of a January hearing in Key Largo.

The project has met with resistance from the neighboring Stillwright Point community whose residents say approval will reward a property owner who has ignored county code. They also fear the project will not serve local residents and will cause traffic problems.

Property owner Casey Scheu wants to divide his 2 Blackwater Lane property and sell a portion to Gorman and Co., which plans to build the senior center with federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit funding.

Both the neighborhood and the developers have hired attorneys to sway the planning commission.

The commission in January declined to give approval to the project until Scheu satisfied pending code compliance violations. Instead, it continued the hearing until April.

It wasn't clear Monday whether the planning commission would reopen public comment at next week's meeting.

"This doesn't happen very often," said County Planner Joe Haberman.

County Attorney Steve Williams said more research needed to be done before he could recommend whether the public would be allowed to speak again. Continuing public hearings isn't usually recommended, he said.

Haberman said Williams will make a recommendation at the beginning of the April 15 meeting.

During the January hearing, many opponents of the project made personal attacks against Scheu. One resident went as far as saying Scheu should be run out of town.

The public hearing was continued after planning commissioners indicated they were uncomfortable voting on the project because of the property's active code compliance cases.

Those issues have been corrected, according to code compliance officials.

Tavernier attorney Nick Mulick, who represents Gorman and Co., said he has no plans for any additional presentations at next week's meeting.

"My understanding is the hearing has entered the deliberation phase," Mulick said.

The meeting is a quasi-judicial hearing in which the commission can only consider evidence presented to them and not necessarily public opinion, he explained.

Mulick said he will be in attendance at the hearing to address any questions from the commission.

jgore@keysnews.com

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