ISLAMORADA — It was another victory for those opposed to a dock being built on a property bordering the public beach at Founders Park. It was the second such time a sitting council ruled against it. A similar request was denied for that property under a different owner in 2010.
In front of a standing-room-only crowd at its Jan. 5 meeting, the Village Council shot down a request for a 211-foot dock to be built at 139 Gimpy Gulch Drive — a former HGTV Dream Home. The item was part of the property owner’s appeal process after a permit for the dock was initially denied by village staff earlier this year.
The governing board said it had no choice but to deny the appeal, citing the proposed dock’s nonconformity with village code requirements as highlighted by staff. A dock was previously in place there many years ago and leftover pylons can be seen in the shallow water, but there are no records of the property ever having a permit to build a dock.
Councilmen Mike Forster and Chris Sante, although denying the request, were hopeful a compromise could eventually be reached. They recommended the property owner consider a shorter dock.
Under current village code, a dock can be twice a property’s linear frontage or up to 100 feet long. The structure has to reach at least a mean low waterline of 4 feet. If it’s a seagrass bottom, it has to reach 5 feet. This applies to all properties.
Island Construction Management President Don Horton, representing the property owner, previously told the Free Press to reach a depth of 4 feet at this property the dock would have to extend out to its proposed 211 feet. A variance to meet the mean low waterline requirement can be granted by the village if it meets certain criteria.
Sante suggested allowing the dock to reach only a mean lower waterline of 3 feet, which would make for a much shorter structure. That would still be in line with the state’s requirement, which is 3 feet. Monroe County requires a mean low waterline of 4 feet.
Councilwoman Cheryl Meads was more outspoken in her opposition.
She said the property owner doesn’t deserve a compromise given the fact they have pending litigation against the village regarding an unauthorized buoy system on their bay bottom-owned waters. According to paperwork, the property owner said they would remove the buoys if a dock were allowed. They say it outlines a protected swimming area for their children and grandchildren.
The property owner is Texas-based DMB Investment Trust. Don M. Byrne is listed as the trustee.
Village Planning Director Cheryl Cioffari previously said this most recent application was denied by staff because it doesn’t fit four criteria: consistent with community character, will not interfere with public recreational use or adjacent waters, is not detrimental to marine resources and does not pose a navigational or safety hazard.
Attorney John Jabro, also representing the property owner, challenged Cioffari’s findings, saying a boat basin south of the property and a marina north makes the proposed dock consistent with community character. Horton added that Islamorada is a fishing community and the dock fits that character. They also said the dock would not interfere with the park, would not be detrimental to marine resources as demonstrated by multiple environmental agencies and would not be a hazard as it would be located in a no-wake zone.
A Facebook group called “Preserve Founders Park Beach” was created to oppose this most recent dock application. About 15 residents spoke against the dock at the meeting. Many others opposing the dock were in attendance.
The property owner can appeal the council’s decision before a judge if a future compromise cannot be worked out.
The next council meeting is 5:30 p.m. Jan. 26 at Founders Park.