Florida Keys News
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Village mulls liquor license restriction

ISLAMORADA -- The Village Council has asked its staff to detail which areas would be affected by a prohibition on the issuance of new liquor licenses near schools, child-care facilities and houses of worship.

Council members agreed last week that any ban should apply not only to liquor, but also to beer and wine.

"No alcohol other than protecting our existing businesses," Councilman Dave Purdo said at a July 1 workshop.

The council held the workshop to consider recommendations made last month by the Community Character Task Force, which it appointed in the spring.

The task force was mainly created in response to public concern about the recent approval of a Publix and another as-of-yet unnamed big-box grocery store project on Upper Matecumbe Key. The mile marker 83.2 Publix, which would sell alcohol, is to be located immediately across narrow Russell Street from Island Community Church.

Council members last week stopped short of directing the village planning and legal team to draw up an ordinance related to liquor stores. Instead, staff will first undertake an analysis to determine exactly which buildings and street segments would be impacted by a ban on new liquor, beer and wine licenses within either 300 feet or 500 feet of schools, child-care facilities and religious houses.

Council members also weighed in at the workshop on several other recommendations that the Community Character Task Force put forth last month.

A divided council directed staff to begin working on an ordinance that would forbid new drive-thrus in the village, with the exception of at banks and pharmacies.

The board also wants to take a closer look at loosening up the building size limit of 5,000 square feet within the Village Center zoning district, which spans the highway corridor in central Upper Matecumbe Key. Specifically, the council instructed the planning staff to look at ways to allow larger buildings in cases in which lots are conjoined. Such a move, said Councilman Ken Philipson, would provide more flexibility in the city center, where a more intense concentration of businesses is desirable.

On a related measure, the council supported the committee's suggestion to require a 4-1 supermajority council vote for the approval of any building larger than 10,000 square feet. That proposal, however, could be rendered irrelevant if a citizen's petition drive that is underway succeeds in bringing to the November ballot a referendum asking for an outright prohibition of new buildings larger than 10,000 square feet.

Also at the workshop last week, the council accepted the task force's 15-page definition of community character and agreed to add it to the village's comprehensive land-use plan.

But council members didn't accept all of the task force's recommendations. They rejected a proposal to increase the village's 20-foot setback requirement for high density developments that are built next to residences. Likewise, the council rejected a proposal to require the developers of commercial properties that are located next to a residential lot to build an 8-foot separation wall.

"I am having a very serious problem with being known as a walled city," Purdo said.

rsilk@keysnews.com

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