May 16, 2018

KEY LARGO — Key Largo Lighthouse Beach Weddings, a company that has been hosting weddings since 2013 at one of its residential properties at mile marker 99, bayside, may get to fulfill its contracted parties until the end of next April before it must apply for land use change.

That is pending a stipulated agreement being drafted between Assistant Monroe County Attorney Steven Williams and Russ Yagel, who represents the business owners, Thurmond Street Partners.

Code Enforcement Special Magistrate John Van Laningham granted the attorneys 15 days from a April 26 code enforcement hearing to tweak the agreement. The hearing was set after the business was cited for such violations as lacking a vacation rental use permit and a vacation rental manager’s license, failing to comply with the county noise ordinance and operating in suburban residential zoning.

“The property owners will cease wedding activity subject to the following language that we have agreed to in principle, absent a subsequent determination by the appropriate government agency and/or a court of law that the use of the property for a wedding venue is not in violation of the current land use district and/or a change in the land use district that allows wedding to occur,” Williams stated.

Under the proposed agreement, the property owners said they would not seek an appeal in circuit court.

Williams emphasized that the forthcoming stipulation does not preclude Thurmond Street Partners from seeking a zoning change so that hosting weddings beyond the April 2019 date would be lawful in terms of land use.

“Subject to public input,” Williams said.

Island of Key Largo Federation of Homeowner Associations President Dottie Mosses said that she and residents of Buccaneer Point and Pirate’s Cove, who neighbor the wedding venue, attended last month’s hearing to protest the proposed agreement but weren’t given the opportunity. 

“This may be just a slap on the wrist,” she said. “And, this is their second violation.”

Thurmond Street’s website, keylargolighthouse.com, shows the venue as “sold out” in 2018 and 2019, and “under construction” in 2020.

Williams said the agreement will also address “the primary complaint, which is the sound emanating from the venue.”

Under the proposed agreement, venue tenants may only book DJs recommended by the property owners and such music must end by 11 p.m. weekend nights. All live music must end by 8 p.m. The maximum of 60 decibels at the property boundary will be allowed. Firework shows must cease.

Also as part of the agreement, Thurmond Street’s list of booked weddings must be provided to the county to verify, so that they aren’t increased or continued beyond the agreed to timeframe. The property may continue to act as a vacation rental if it applies for the appropriate permits. If a wedding party is canceled, another wedding cannot be booked in its place.

If no final agreement between the county and property owner is reached, the attorneys will submit independent stipulations with agreed upon facts to Van Laningham for a ruling. If there are disputed facts, a special hearing will be set.

Online records show that Thurmond Street was first cited for violating county code in 2014 before an initial stipulated agreement with the county was approved by a special magistrate in February 2015.

A requested copy of that first agreement wasn’t received by press time.

tjava@keysnews.com