Last week Truman Annex, a "gated" community in a dispute with the City of Key West over control of the lower part of Southard Street, put up a limited access sign and started checking the drivers heading through their "Truman Show"-ish neighborhood.
According to published reports, last week three Key West City Commissioners (Lopez, Verge, and Rossi) along with the City Manager of Key West, confronted a Truman Annex security guard who was reportedly demanding identification from people driving into the Truman Annex neighborhood. (Truman Annex now denies that the guard was demanding identification) It was reported that a shouting match occurred between Commissioner Lopez and the security guard. A shoved clipboard? The security guard called the police, according to the report, and the Chief of Police showed up. The Chief reportedly told the security guard to remove the restricted access sign and to cease stopping traffic and checking ids. Traffic was backing up due to the checkpoint.
The next day, the local press reported that a civil complaint against Commissioner Lopez was in the works - reportedly to be filed by the Truman Annex Master Property Association lawyer Bill Anderson. Also, it was reported, Anderson threatened to file a civil complaint in federal court against the Police Chief if he shuts down the checkpoint again. In the same story from the Key West Citizen, a local newspaper, Truman Annex plans to "defy a police order prohibiting it from stopping cars at the Southard Street guardhouse, with plans to resume the checkpoint..."
I went the next day, and although a guard was in the guardhouse, he did not seem to be stopping traffic or demanding identification. People were once again heading to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park and the Truman waterfront and the new Eco Center without being interfered with. And the military personel who regularly use that road to get to their facilities were able to go without interference from a private security guard. And I thought to myself, "well, self - maybe TAMPOA is coming to their senses. Doubtful, but maybe."
I'm amazed at TAMPOA's hubris - setting up control over lower Southard Street before the courts have yet to decide the matter. TAMPOA has adamently said that their title searches have shown they own the street, but so far they have not revealed the proof to the rest of the island.
If it is proven that Truman Annex owns and has control of lower Southard Street, then the City of Key West must take the street back through eminent domain. Why? Because it is the best route to the State Park and the Eco-center and the military base and the new Truman waterfront property. The street is wide enough to handle the traffic, and it has traditionally and historically been the route to that area.
Here is the main point as I see it: the City of Key West will probably have to use eminent domain one way or another, no matter the traffic route. The Bahama village streets that are being suggested (mostly by TAMPOA) are too narrow, especially as you near the park. To make those streets ADA approved, the buildings that are too close to the street will probably need to be removed to allow sidewalks. If the city is unable to purchase the buildings from the current owners, then they will likely have to use eminent domain.
I understand that TAMPOA feels it has a legitimate contract with the City of Key West (that the previous commission worked on). But there is one thing that the Manics in the Annex don't get: the citizens of Key West don't want to lose Southard Street, much less any street. If the previous City Commission made an agreement with Truman Annex, it made a mistake. And to prove my point, this should go on the ballot. Let the people of Key West decide what should happen - especially since the citizens will be footing the bill for eminent domain. I guess that TAMPOA will finally get to see where the majority of opinion actually is. I, for one, certainly don't want to see the Truman Annex neighborhood decide the character of our island. And that is apparantly what TAMPOA wants to do.
Today the local paper Key West The News published "A Message from TAMPOA". It is a long, two page letter detailing the TAMPOA case against the City.
In that letter, the TAMPOA board of directors revealed that much of this dispute is about controlling the new Truman Waterfront, given to the City of Key West from the Navy. Somehow, Truman Annex believes that they should have control of what happens at the park! Let me quote from the article:
"And most importantly, tell them you want a PARK, NOT AMORE COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT AND TRAFFIC..."Well let me respond: I actually do want commercial development in that huge waterfront area. Yes, there should be a park, but there also should be places to eat, drink, rent a boat, dockage, a marine store, and whatever else will make it a vibrant new part of the island. So the control of Southard Street issue may not really be so much about the street but rather the property outside of their gated world, the Truman Waterfront.
Of course, if the City does not bow down to the Manics in the Annex, TAMPOA has threatened the city with huge lawsuits. In that same "Letter from TAMPOA", the issue of damages to Truman Annex is mentioned and I quote:
"Legal costs and appraisal fees will easily exceed a million dollars and TAMPOA already has expert research that pegs damages for the loss of access control at numbers that are three to five times the amount of the Duck Tours decree."
If I were on the city commission, I would be looking for a legal team that has the teeth and skills to fight this battle. TAMPOA, and it's president Tom "it's not your cat" Tukey, has shown that they have an arsenal of attorneys all to willing to bill hours for his causes. The city needs to get itself a savy lawyer(s) and get ready for battle. This will certainly get uglier.
One thing I don't doubt: the "Manics in the Annex" seem insecure without gates.