KEY LARGO -- The owner of a mile marker 105 property that may soon house a senior apartment complex, says the proposed project is a good thing for the island.
Casey Scheu is in the process of subdividing a portion of his property at 2 Blackwater with Gorman Co., which will build 48 low-income apartments for seniors.
The project has caused angst among the Stillwright Point neighborhood, whose members have written dozens of letters to the Monroe County Planning Department to try to prevent the development, which some fear will not serve local seniors but lure more residents from the mainland.
In light of the outcry, Planning Director Townsley Schwab met with the developer and neighbors to hear particular complaints and objections. Schwab decided it was best for the Monroe County Planning Commis-sion to decide the fate of the project, although it was within his authority to green-light the project.
That meeting will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29, at the Murray E. Nelson Government and Cultural Center.
Gorman Co. is pursuing an agreement to purchase the 2.6-acre property and intends to use federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit funding to complete the project.
The use of such funding opens tenancy to anyone who qualifies under federal guidelines, including non-residents.
The units would be approximately 700 square feet and run about $850 per month. One of the units would house a property caretaker.
"Many of the people I talk to say, "Where do I sign up?" Scheu said.
The letters from the neighborhood, though, outline concerns about traffic and sewer problems.
Other complainants say native plants will be taken out and the neighborhood will become a noisy and unpleasant place to live.
Scheu purchased the property in 2004 and has since planned on developing it. Acknowledging he has a financial interest in the future of the project, he contends it will help the community.
"It provides for an opportunity [for seniors] to move into a nice facility that they can afford down here," Scheu said. "I can't believe people [in Stillwright] are trying to do this to older people."
Federal law prohibits discimination practices when it comes to those applying for housing. So the developer cannot discriminate between a Montana resident, a Miami resident or a Monroe County resident.
To Scheu, Stillwright Point residents who oppose the project are having a "knee-jerk, not-in-my-neighborhood reaction" to the project.
Scheu said no one from the neighborhood has personally complained to him about the project.
The property owner added he intends to keep his contracting business next to the development, so he has a vested interest in ensuring that he has a good neighbor, too.
"I am staying here," he said. "I want it to be a nice place."