Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Dock near beach to get council review

ISLAMORADA -- The Village Council is scheduled on Thursday, Aug. 7, to rule on a controversial variance application for a dock immediately to the south of the Founders Park beach.

Don and Shelley Byrne, Texas residents who vacation in Islamorada, must apply for the variance because the dock would extend 208 feet from shore, well beyond the village' standard 100-foot cap. The Bryne's need the extra length to reach the required 5 feet in water depth, their agent Don Horton said.

"They just want a dock like 90 other people on Plantation Key have," he said.

The Byrne's look to be fighting an uphill battle, however. In 2010, the Village Council unanimously rejected a variance application for a similarly long dock off the same property after park advocates argued it would ruin the view from the beach and get in the way of sailing and other park-related activities.

In addition, early this year the Village Council contemplated an ordinance that would have put an end to long dock length variances in Islamorada, but rejected it as overreach.

Though the Byrne's dock would be a few feet longer than the one the previous property owner sought to build in 2010, it wouldn't be as large. That dock would have served a then-proposed eight-home development at the property. The Byrne's dock would serve only them and any potential guests.

That change hasn't ameliorated the objection of the village's park committee. Though it was not required to do so, the committee chose to review the dock proposal in May and unanimously recommended that the Village Council deny the variance.

The dock, said committee chair Jim Brown, would damage the experience of Founders Park patrons.

"Say you want to look at the sunset, it's going to cut off more than half of your view," he said.

The Islamorada Planning Department has also recommended that the proposed dock be rejected, concluding it would violate village rules related to the protection of hard bottom and other habitats as well as rules related to preserving shoreline access

Without citing specific infringements of code, the staff report also strikes a critical tone toward the dock on issues relating to community character, impact on the recreational use at Founders Park and navigational hazards.

"A potential increase in impacts on recreational uses could exist," reads the start of one such carefully written appraisal.

Despite the parties lined up against his clients, Horton said he's still optimistic he can convince the Village Council to approve the variance. The Army Corps of Engineers and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection have already permitted the dock, he noted. And he said that there are only three bayside Plantation Key properties left that don't have a dock.

"It seems apparent that we are being told 'no' because we live next to Founders Park," Horton said.


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