Monroe County commissioners did give developer Pritam Singh a small waterfront road on Stock Island, but not before they received his word that public access to water would be part of his development project for the area.
Singh vowed to build a boardwalk and keep other waterfront sections of Oceanside Marina open to the public.
"In total, there will be a half mile of waterfront access to the public that isn't here today," Singh said, "and we are paying taxes on it."
The county commission discussed continued public access to the water after Key West resident R.L. Blazevic asked the commission not to abandon the road, citing the public's "loss of access to the water."
Commissioner Heather Carruthers asked the county attorney if the county could "stipulate" that pedestrian access be maintained. Carruthers wanted to make sure it was true public access and that people would not be charged to access the water through Singh's property.
Carruthers cited Sunset Key as an example of what she does not want to see on Singh's property. The Key West City Commission required the developers of the upscale island community to have public access as part of the development agreement, but now the island only allows visitors to access the water if they are paying customers at the restaurant, or if they have purchased an expensive day pass.
"I am disappointed that public access is not available on Tank Island (the original name of Sunset Key,)" Singh said.
The county commission did not stipulate pedestrian access in the road abandonment. However, the commission does have leverage and plans to hold Singh to his word if he wants its approval of the marina/condo project.
Singh had no objection to make public access part of the development agreement, which will most likely go before the county commission later this year.
Singh purchased Oceanside Marina last summer for $5 million. Singh said he plans to invest another $25 million into the marina for repairs and upgrades, including 80 new condos and a restaurant.
Last month, the county agreed to sell the old Hickory House property to Singh for $2 million. Singh proposes to place a large pool and tiki bar there, and operate water sports activities, such as kayak and personal watercraft rentals, from the docks.
Once the sale closes, the developer will own both sides of a small section of Peninsular Avenue, the road the county agreed to abandon.
The docks would also be used to pick up people and transport them aboard a water-shuttle service Singh plans to operate. The water shuttle would take marina guests to bars and restaurants along Safe Harbor in Stock Island and to Key West.