Sunset Marina homeowners will drop their lawsuit against the city over having to live next-door to its homeless shelter if the city starts taking steps to move it, according to a proposed settlement made public Wednesday.
The suit, filed in August 2011, claims the city ignored its own zoning rules and permitting process when it built the shelter at 5537 College Road in 2004 on county property reserved for the Sheriff's Office.
City leaders have since last fall eyeballed the former Easter Seals building just up the street at 5220 College Road for a new shelter, but recently four commissioners questioned the idea or outright opposed it.
"The city shall use due diligence in relocating from the jail property to another location," the settlement says. "Plaintiff shall not oppose relocation of the homeless shelter to the Easter Seals property."
Sunset Marina was recently purchased for $2.2 million by a group of business investors that included the owners of the Key West Golf Club.
The golf club, separately owned from the gated condominium neighborhood that carries its name, is on the same side of the road as the old Easter Seals lot.
City commissioners will decide whether to approve the settlement at their 6 p.m. Oct. 2 meeting at Old City Hall, 510 Greene St.
If approved, the paperwork will go back to the lawyers and before a judge.
The city's Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter (KOTS), has outlived its initial purpose, Mayor Craig Cates said Wednesday.
"It was supposed to be a temporary facility; the city was supposed to come up with a more permanent solution," said Cates, who agrees with the settlement. "If we stay there, we'd have to rebuild those buildings to meet code."
The city's lease with the county property for KOTS is up in March, he said.
Key West's homeless problem has become political fodder as Cates is up for re-election Oct. 1. The term is only one-year rather than two because the city is getting its election dates in sync with statewide races.
This Wednesday's commission agenda includes a warring resolution up for a vote:
Commissioner Billy Wardlow, who opposes a homeless shelter at the old Easter Seals lot, has put forward a resolution to order city staff to stop spending any money related to "homeless services at the former Easter Seals property until such time as the best use of the property is determined."
City staff spent just under $20,000 -- within the city manager's discretionary limit -- to hire consultant Robert Marbut to deliver a report on homeless solutions.
Marbut's July 30 report claimed the city was home to some 1,400 homeless men and women on any given day, relying heavily on jail and KOTS records.
But local nonprofit leaders were unswayed. A "Point-in-Time" one-day census locally run in January said there were 658 homeless in all of the Keys.
Cates points out the 24-hour shelter and the proposed location had the commission's support several months ago.
"I had the understanding they were behind me," said Cates on Wednesday. "I know some of it's politics for the election."
On Tuesday, voters will consider Cates or Margaret Romero for mayor. Romero is opposed to Cates on every hot-button issue in Key West. She believes the island doesn't need a 24-hour shelter.
On Dec. 4, commissioners approved a resolution for city staff to begin planning a 24-hour homeless shelter on city-owned property. The Easter Seals property was mentioned in the resolution as a possible location.
The measure passed 5-2, with Commissioners Mark Rossi and Wardlow dissenting.
Rossi said to leave KOTS where it is. The shelter is in Wardlow's district.
But earlier this month, Rossi and Wardlow were joined by Commissioners Tony Yaniz and Clayton Lopez in questioning what they considered the mayor's push toward a 24-hour homeless shelter at the old Easter Seals lot.
Yaniz said the city needs to take care of its "citizens" first and the homeless population, comprising nearly all out-of-towners, second.
A third entry on the commission's agenda asks for a homeless "summit" that brings city, county and state agencies to the table to work on solutions, and names the Monroe County Continuum-of-Care, the Keys' new lead agency on homeless services and grant-obtaining, as a chief part of the plan.
Commissioner Jimmy Weekley, who is proposing the summit, also wants City Manager Bob Vitas to work with the county's nonprofits for the January 2014 "Point-in-Time" census, which sends volunteers across the Florida Keys to count homeless men, women and children.
"Staff is directed to actively participate in the planning and execution of the Jan. 28 homeless 'Point-in-Time' count," Weekley's resolution says.
Weekley's summit resolution also calls for hiring a mediator from the Florida Conflict Resolution Center to serve as a "neutral facilitator of the homeless summit."