TAVERNIER -- A Tampa real estate company is asking the Monroe County Planning Commission to overrule the planning director and allow the Department of Homeland Security to occupy a planned security facility here.
In a 36-page application packet filed May 24, Hoover Properties Islamorada LLC. argues the security facility should be considered a public building and compatible with other area buildings. According to the application, those are the requirements to meet for approval.
Planning Director Townsley Schwab denied Hoover's application in April saying the proposal "has been determined incompatible with the community's character."
He also wrote that the facility "is not intended primarily to serve the needs of the immediate planning area."
The Planning Commission has scheduled a special meeting Aug. 31 at the Murray E. Nelson Government and Cultural Center for determination.
Based on the commission's decision, Hoover Properties could appeal to the state Division of Administrative Hearings, according to county planner Joe Haberman.
"There's strong odds that the applicant could appeal again," Haberman said.
The application says that Hoover Properties is willing to take steps to make the building's physical appearance more compatible with other buildings in the town's historic district.
"The applicant is willing to consider reasonable design changes from the Tavernier Historic Preservation Board," the application says.
This DHS office also will not routinely require after hours occupation of the building, it says.
Though some details of the building emerged from County Commissioner Sylvia Murphy's office, including holding cells and weapons storage rooms, Haberman said county attorney's have labeled that information privileged.
In its application, Hoover Properties said it is working with the United States General Services Administration to use the buildings as offices for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Marine Division and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"A small portion of the building would be used to process individuals that are found within the immediate vicinity of the property and that are under investigation for customs violations," the appeal says,
Those individuals will be processed at the Tavernier facility and then taken to other locations.
The appeal also notes that the Department of Homeland Security has two similar offices in Key West and another in Marathon. This office, they say, will serve Tavernier and the Upper Keys.
The project has sparked debate from about 200 Tavernier residents who came together to form Residents for the Preservation of Community Character. These individuals have hired an attorney to help prevent the facility from succeeding.
After the permit was denied in April, homeowner Larry Loughner told the Free Press, "I'm sure it's not over, but if it's not, we will do as a community everything in our power to thwart their efforts."