Florida Keys News
Thursday, May 8, 2014
HARC tables Peary Court vote
Cottages must have doors facing road

The city's Historical Architectural Review Commission (HARC) sent Peary Court designers home from Old City Hall without an approval for the third time Wednesday.

At issue was the scale and access of the 208-unit development when it came to its Angela Street portion.

The panel was unanimous in wanting only single-story cottages on Angela Street rather than two-story homes that HARC members considered too large.

"You've done a good job along White Street," said HARC member Richard Logan. "I think less so on Angela."

HARC members voted 6-0 to postpone rendering a decision on the proposal and directed Miami architect Bernard Zyscovich to return with designs that show cottages, 600 to 900 square foot homes, whose front doors open on Angela Street.

Member Richard McChesney didn't participate, citing a conflict of interest.

Angela Street will become "double-loaded," meaning home entrances will line both sides of the road, HARC and Peary Court planners agreed.

Donna Bosold, a private planner working on the new Peary Court, said after the meeting that the team had no problem with making the changes.

"You've got an awfully lot of really good stuff here," said Michael Miller, an architect and HARC's chairman told Zyscovich. "This is on its way to being something special if developers want it the right way."

Zyscovich showed some frustration.

"I don't understand how the entire project became about Angela Street,"he said at one point during the 2.5-hour meeting, adding that residents have been aggressively critical of the project from the get-go.

"I'm not an analyst but there is probably some therapy that needs to be done," Zyscovich said. "What we're talking about is not really architectural."

White Street Partners, the developers who bought the 24-acre parcel from the Navy and its private partner Southeast Housing for $35 million in August, remain stuck in the starting blocks of the approval process.

City commissioners will have the final say on the plans to replace 160 housing units and add 48 units of affordable homes, but only after HARC, the planning board, the Development Review Commission and the Tree Commission grant their blessings.

Residents who live on the borders of Peary Court trashed the project during a special meeting Wednesday at Old City Hall devoted to the revised proposal.

"Please protect our historic architecture from being overwhelmed, overshadowed and smashed," said Angela Street resident Steve Dawkins, who said the cottage in the plan "seem like just an excuse to get more people crammed into Peary Court."

Tharon Dunn told the city in a letter, "Peary Court has been a separate enclave from Old Town for 150 years. It should remain that way."

Peary Court planners made their first appearance before HARC in February 2013 but scrapped the entire design after the panel showed dismay over nearly every piece of it.

Wednesday was the second time Zyscovich's plans were on the table.

HARC members hashed out concerns over parking, traffic and even if Angela Street should, as Peary Court planners have suggested, turn into a one-way.

"The lions' share of this discussion has nothing to do with what we're charged with," said assistant city attorney Ron Ramsingh.

Miller said he disagreed.

One HARC member questioned the push by the city's planning director, Don Craig, to have developers transform Peary Court into an extension of Old Town, with Fleming and Southard streets continuing inside the property.

"I'm really perplexed as to why Mr. Craig was so adamant in his desire to require developers to open it up," said Janet Hinkle, who was appointed to HARC this year. "The mass and scale of houses proposed along Angela Street is just too big, too many."

Craig wasn't at Wednesday's meeting. But he has said Peary Court shouldn't follow the path of the gated, upscale complex Truman Annex, which he called a "travesty" for getting cut off from Bahama Village.

HARC member Theo Glorie, though, said he was disappointed by "resentment" among homeowners who live around Peary Court.

Other members agreed, including Miller who agreed there was an unwelcoming message coming across from many locals.

"I'm against a gated community here, or even one that has the appearance of a gated community," said Miller. "The fence left in place suggests people on one side want to be separated."

Logan said, "If I lived there I'd welcome the addition of those beautiful new homes. I believe that having neighborhoods isolated from one another is not a good idea. It's not democratic."


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