Friday, September 29, 2006

Manics in the Annex

The battle between Truman Annex and the City of Key West is reaching the boiling point.
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.
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Anonymous said...

well it now comes out that you want not a park but a commercial development but wish the truman annex residents to shoulder the entire traffic burden. the consultants had meetings with the citizens of key west and i did not hear anyone propose or encourage commercial development at those meetings. in the navy's transfer of the ground to the city it speaks of a petronia st. commercial zone extension within the grounds. it also assumed ingress and egress to this area through petronia st. please read the transfer documents on the city's website.
you failed to answer any of the points in tampoa's letter in the blue paper. that is not unusual since your rhetoric rarely uses reason and facts just your own gut feelings and emotions. let's not let facts get in the way eh!
the mediated compromise had allowed traffic two ways during business and state park hours. why is that not good enough? fine so we are back to the 2000 agreement. the courts have already thrown out the city's dismissal claim and now the city will have to show reason for why they will not abide by their legally binding contract. this ought to be interesting.
you continue to espouse eminent domain regardless of the costs i guess assuming that tampoa wins its suit. the winning of the suit will clearly show the city's bad faith.
eminent domain will cost this community 30-40 million dollars based on studies showing the value of a gated community vs an ungated community. you don't seem to care about these costs. that must mean that you don't own property here so you won't have to pay the bills for it. very nice

Cayo Dave said...

thanks anonymous for your comment. I understand your frustration - you thought that the previous city commission represented the opinion of the majority of Key West citizens. This new commission doesn't seem to agree with the previous commission's agreement, and more importantly, nor do the citizens of Key West. So jump up and down, scream and holler, cry foul, and continue to alientate yourself from the majority of opinion on the island.
Now, lets look at eminent domain. You say that it will cost the city $30-$40 million. I say who knows? The judge will decide that, and the city of Key West should not shy away from using eminent domain because of your speculation. The fact is that Southard Steet will still be a street, and no homes or businesses will be removed or taken.
So the issue seems to be losing the gated-community designation. Maybe here is a good idea - if the city takes the street by eminent domain, why not put up some fences and gates along Southard Street to keep you gated in? You'll still be a gated community, and the rest of the island will have the most logical main access road to the State Park, Navy property, Eco-Center, and Truman Waterfront. But I have no way of knowing that this is a viable solution (i'm sure the manics in the annex will fight no matter what). But if it did, the damages would be considerably less.
But if eminent domain must be used for Southard Street, then it is well worth the cost. The city could "float a bond" to cover the judgement, and the payments would be stretched out over decades.

Anonymous said...

The Key West Citizen has a thoughtful editorial on the Southard Street situation in today's paper. It's worth taking a look at because it presents both sides of the story -- and calls for restraint.

Anonymous said...

yes the commission represents the people of key west. the next commission might be different from this one. all commissions represent the people during their term of office. according to your "reasoning" you will pick whichever commission you decide will represent the people. if new commission decides differently from what you want, you will probably say that they don't represent the community. is it obvious that reasoned thought is not your strong suit.
fortunately the law will need to be followed. bad for this city which has an unfortunate tendency of losing their court cases.
by the way since you did not respond i assume i was correct and you do not own property (real estate) and thus feel free to spend that money freely since you fail to contriute to it.
ps. it is not up to you to speak for "the people". i think that that is a bit presumptious for most of us, obviously not for you.

Cayo Dave said...

actually, politicians don't always represent the majority opinion of citizens. that is why they are often voted out of office.
as for me speaking for the majority of citizens - i can only relay what every person I know on the island has said: We don't agree with TAMPOA. If you got out from whatever rock (or gated community) you are living under, you might find that your opinion is of the minority.
Assume what you want, buy you can know this: I definitely don't live in Truman Annex.

Anonymous said...

again you fail to answer the questions posed. i guess that is your standard operating principle. don't let reason get in your way, just keep blustering. your friends are apparently the only ones who you count.
that still begs the question of you paying real estate tax but i forgot, you don't mind using other people's hard earned money for frivilous lawsuits that the the city can't win. (ie. duck tours, ollie rollison's suit, atlantic shore suit, the recent city dismissal loss, etc). of course those loses which will need to be paid won't worry you because when it comes to the taxes you don't pay the freight.

Cayo Dave said...

hey anonymous - this is my blog, not your interrogation.
So, in response to your questioning, I will say one thing: "Suck it".

Anonymous said...

well reasoned!