Thursday, May 17, 2007

Truman Waterfront Plans Taking Shape

Yesterday's "Naval Properties Local Redevelopment Authority Workshop" unveiled a preliminary master plan for the Truman Waterfront property, conveyed to the City of Key West with stipulations.

I've included images of the plan which were presented to the commission and public (click the images to see larger versions)

The plan appears to balance the communities desire for greenspace with the obvious value to the City of this important piece of waterfront. In my mind, it looks very good and will be a vibrant, enjoyable, and interesting new addition to the City of Key West.

The plan creates a large park out of most of the land 75%-80% greenspace. Also included in the plan is a "Bahama Village Square", marina, harbor walk, public pier, flexible greenspace that accommodates a soccer field (also for events, concerts, etc), public gardens, an interactive children's' fountain, maybe a restaurant, and an assisted care living facility. Planners were quick to point out that none of these particulars have been decided, and will require public input and voter referendums. The plan is an outline of what general uses each area might be designated.

Many ideas were mentioned for the various spaces - many for community organizations with very worthwhile causes. Some good ideas included a culinary institute for our hospitality industry, spaces for Bahama Village residents to have cottage businesses, art spaces, and trade instruction.

Also included in the plan is 86 residential affordable housing units, retailing directed to those affordable housing units, nearly 200 parking spaces, butterfly/bird attracting plantings, bocci courts, and plenty of shaded areas.

Ed Swift spoke at the public input and believes that Cuba is likely to open sooner rather than later (though he conceded that he's been saying that for 30 years). Swift pointed out that high-speed, ocean going ferries will want to operate out of Key West to travel to Cuba. He implored the City officials to consider this future need while designing the property and design with Cuba in mind.

Norma Jean Sawyer, executive director of the Bahama Conch Community Land Trust, was inspiring - and an excellent leader for her community. She reminded the commission that the conveyance of the land by the Navy was for the purpose of "economic development". Her plans for the Bahama Village Square, approximately 6.6 acres, will greatly benefit her community. Removal of the fences bordering Bahama Village and the waterfront will immediately benefit Bahama Village, and she (along with other speakers) requested that the City move quickly on taking down the fences.

Commissioners seemed all over the place in their comments.

Rossi thinks there is already too much vacant commercial space in town, and does not we need anymore. And, he said that without the traffic issue worked out (thanks to TAMPOA), and the Admiral's Cut issue, there is probably little that is worth planning for now.

Menendez spoke passionately about the needs of children.

Verge moaned that this project would cost a fortune - stating that the cost projection made 5 years ago of $20 million was now probably more likely $100 million. I can't imagine how the numbers could change anywhere near that.

In the end, the Commission directed City staff to look into removing the fences, placing some sod, and starting the very long process of planning with special meetings.

This plan, no matter what it is, is likely to take a very long time. After all, as Norma Jean Sawyer mentioned, this whole thing began over 10 years ago.

TAMPOA is likely to have a fit over this - and I won't be surprised if they fight the City over every minute point, making the residents of Key West wait and wait for their new park and amenities.

It should be clear to TAMPOA that Southard Street is part of the City plan. Fight in court all you want - the City will need the street, and eminent domain is fair if the City does not prevail in the current litigation. TAMPOA claims that they'll lose value - but the City may be able to make the claim that the improvement to the neighboring property will benefit them - offsetting their "loss".

Either way - TAMPOA, you may think you live in an investment - but in reality, you live in a community. Threatening to make the City pay tens of millions of dollars because you lose your "gated" status is sad. We are islanders - in this together. I'm sure you could enormously repair your image in the City if you simply ended your claim to the street. All islanders may even rejoice, and head down to Truman Annex and thank your for helping to make our island a better place.
Your comments are encouraged. What do you think?
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Anonymous said...

I was wondering how long it would be before this blog's hatred of the people of the Truman Annex neighborhood would emerge again. Leave it to a nice discussion about the waterfront to evoke more of the ugly bile that some of the frequenters of this blog have stored in their systems.

The plan presented on Thursday was the exact plan that was put into place during the workshops earlier in this decade. See here. This plan was supported fully by TAMPOA. Sorry guys, you'll have to look further to exercise your hatreds.

Regardless of what comes out of the waterfront plans, it won't change the fact that the part of Southard Street inside the Truman Annex neighborhood is private property, and use of it by anyone else (other than the official uses granted to Navy and City vehicles) is by the good will of the people of that neighborhood. You can continue to piss and moan about it and accomplish nothing, or you can maybe, just maybe, save yourself some grief and learn to live with it.

Cayo Dave said...

In response to the second anonymous comment:
Actually, it is Truman Annex that needs to learn to live with it.
The issue of who's road it is will be decided by the courts - either during the present litigation or subsequent eminent domain proceedings. It is a shame that anonymous holds the ownership of the street over their harmony with the community. You are not an islander - and I will not miss you when you are gone.
And as for the "good will of the people of that neighborhood" - seriously, I have to laugh.

Anonymous said...

Laugh all you like, the people who live in the Truman Annex ARE good people and ARE showing plenty of good will.

As I said, you can piss and moan about it all you like, but it doesn't change the facts:

-- TAMPOA has clear title to the road.

-- The City can't afford eminent domain.

-- Eminent domain won't work anyway, because the city will gain nothing by exercising it that it doesn't already have.

As I said, continue in your fantansy world about how evil the people are who live in the Truman Annex, or get yourself a life...

Harvey J. Keck said...

It appears now that the city accepts TAMPOA's ownership of Southard St. Eminent domain may be the final act in this poor play. Unfortunately the use of eminent domain for a commercial venture is prohibited by recent state law. As was said before, the costs of eminent domain is huge for the municipality as well as the need to show that there are no other viable alternatives. (Please see the plans of the consultants for a viable alternative). Your position is that of a bully who initially agrees to a plan and then for his own benefits abrogates it. I sincerely doubt that the courts will side with such a blatant show of bad faith, but hey what the heck, the city at that point will be paying for both sides of the legal issue.

Cayo Dave said...

Let me respond to the numerous statements from anonymous commenters.
1)"TAMPOA has clear title to the road.": If TAMPOA has clear title, let's see it. Give it to the local press and show everyone. Then we can all move forward and figure out a solution.
2)"The City can't afford eminent domain.": I have no idea if the City can or cannot afford eminent domain, but it seems part of the strategy of TAMPOA to scare the City and residents with this logic. The bigger question is can the City not afford to have Southard Street as part of the Truman Waterfront plan. Also, I don't think it necessary for the City to own the street. Instead, it could be used as it always has, with traffic freely coming and going. This whole thing is a move by TAMPOA to gate the street and hinder access, thereby controlling the development of the waterfront.
3)"continue in your fantansy world about how evil the people are who live in the Truman Annex": let me be clear, I do not think the people who live in Truman Annex are evil. I am sure there are good people there - but their leadership has wrecked their image. I truly feel sorry for the Truman Annex residents who do not agree with TAMPOA.
4)"the use of eminent domain for a commercial venture is prohibited by recent state law.": With 75%-80% greenspace/park & mostly community oriented facilities (assisted living facility, affordable housing, culinary institute, trade school programs) I don't know if the court would agree with you that this is a "commercial venture." Remember, part of the requirements of the conveyence is "economic development". Threatening lawsuit after lawsuit against our City is not surprising.

Thank You for Your Comments! Keep visiting!

Harvey J. Keck said...

Did you forget about the marina, the assisted living center, the market rate condominiums as well as the commercial shops along Fort St. and along the Petronia St. extension?
I believe that these are commercial ventures (be they profit or non-profit)!
The federal government transferred the property for economic development but that in itself has nothing to do with the issue of eminent domain.
The law passed does not set percentages for the eminent domain exclusion, except to exclude any commercial ventures.

And thank you for your comments.

P.S. How nice that you published the threat of vandalism by your first commenter.

Anonymous said...

I hate to tell you this, but "clear title" isn't something you just "show". The TITLE can be shown, the clarity of it is a matter of legal research. For a simple property that was bought from a long-time owner (eg, a family farm owned by the family for 100+ years, sold to a developer who sells a home on it to someone) the legal research can be simple enough. For a complex property that has gone through many hands and been subdivided and combined under many different governments, it can be extremely complex.

In our society this has brought us to the common practice of having a title search company do the research, and based on their research the company offers an insurance policy on the title. The "proof of title" is whether they are willing to insure the title at a reasonable cost. They won't even offer a policy if there is a cloud on the title.

TAMPOA has had a title insurance company do this research. The title search involved research all the way back to ownership by the King of Spain, with much research in federal archives, military records, etc, along the way. Based on all this, TAMPOA was offered such a policy at a reasonable cost.

Will showing you the policy convince you? Of course not. Nothing short of a judge's ruling will convince you and the others who hate Truman Annex so much. So that will come in due course.

The City itself understands this is the case, so they have already dropped the ownership issue.

(By the way, there's really no requirement that TAMPOA prove their LEGALLY RECORDED title is clean, it's up to the city to prove that it isn't.)

Don't you think that NOW is the time to move forward and work out a solution, rather than the city continuing to waste everyone's time and money on it?

Cayo Dave said...

To commenter Harvey who wrote The law passed does not set percentages for the eminent domain exclusion, except to exclude any commercial ventures.:
I think you are confusing things here. The eminent domain action would be for Southard Street - not for the Truman Waterfront. Since the City is not trying to convert Southard Street into a commercial endeavor (they want to keep it a street) there is no problem with eminent domain laws.
I am also deleting the first comment on this blog since the commenter mentioned vandalism.
Let me be clear: Do not advocate violence, vandalism, or crime while commenting on this blog.

Harvey J. Keck said...

Your whole argument for eminent domain is access to the waterfront and its commercial ventures (as noted). The city's attempt to gain Southard St. is direct tied to access the commercial ventures as well as the parkland itself. This is exactly what the state outlawed in its recent eminent domain restriction law I believe it's you who are confused!

Cayo Dave said...

I think you are wrong. Nearly every road in America leads to some type of commercial venture. According to your thinking, no eminent domain action would ever be possible.

Harvey J. Keck said...

No, the rational for the taking of Southard St. is directly related to accessing the 33 acres of the City owned waterfront. This road essentially goes no where else. Both the Navy and the state park have easements but the city does not. The truly funny thing is that the city already has public roads which go up to the border of this land so that saying that there are no alternatives other than taking Southard St. by eminent domain is laughable. There is also the unanimously passed agreement by the city in 2000 as well as the city's consultant's recommendation. Any court deciding eminent domain will have significant difficulties ignoring the above let alone the cost to the city if against all reason and logic they should prevail. Whoa Nellie, hold on to your wallet.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think there is an easy solution to the whole Southard Street mess....TAMPOA should give the City of Key West all rights to Southard Street back in exchange to the city purchasing gates on each of the respective side streets leading into Truman Annex. This is a win-win for everyone. TAMPOA will save face with their homeowners by getting the gated neighborhood they want and the city will get all rights to Southard Street back. The purchase of mechanical gates controlled by push button codes will be A LOT cheaper than a messy court case.

If TAMPOA wants a gated community...go for it. The city entered into a legal binding agreement which many on the Navy side feels they didn't have the right to do given the easement. Now is the time to try and find a win-win solution for everyone and let's stop fighting.

Cayo Dave said...

Here is an even better idea that will give the City the access it needs and TAMPOA the gated neighborhood that it demands: the City of Key West should, if necessary, take the street by eminent domain and erect fences and gates along Southard Street thereby keeping Truman Annex gated. This way, Truman Annex couldn't claim that they were losing their gated status, and the City would not have to pay for the supposed loss of homeowner value and would only have to pay for the taking of the street. Since the street would remain a street, there would not be a loss in value, and this should not cost the City anthing as well.

Harvey J. Keck said...

What are you guys drinking? In this reality, do pigs also fly?

Cayo Dave said...

That is the best you could come up with?
Do you actually have anything to add about my idea or why you think it is fantasy?
I think it would work.

Harvey J. Keck said...

The reality is that should it ever go to eminent domain in the courts (which is highly doubtful), the city can't win. The city does not have the legal requirements to successfully win this eminent domain issue as noted in previous responses. Any other response is indeed fantasy.

Cayo Dave said...

Saying the "city can't win" is pure hubris.
The City can win - and likely will - in an eminent domain proceeding.
You are confusing the issue here.
Southard Street would remain a street and not be converted into a commercial endeavor. Erecting fences and gates along Truman Annex's property line abutting Southard Street will keep that neighborhood gated.
Think of it this way: in the majority of eminent domain cases in the US, a municipality/government body needs some particular land to make a street, highway, or exit ramp. Those streets, highways, and exit ramps will lead to all types of properties: homes, businesses, parks, and more roads. Just because the new road can lead to a commercial property does not mean that eminent domain is not allowed.
Quite to the contrary - the courts have ruled that this is an appropriate use of eminent domain.
Harvey, try to get past the debate about legality of eminent domain in this case.
Let's say the court awards the City the street.
Wouldn't erecting fences and gates along Southard Street keep Truman Annex gated?

Anonymous said...

Just got time to read these comments. I believe that TAMPOA, some years ago, looked at the idea of gates at the Southard-Emma intersection and found it not allowable because of "fire regulations". Sorry but I don't remember all the details.

Harvey J. Keck said...

There is nothing illegal about eminent domain and thus nothing for me to "get over it". The issue is that the city does not have the necessary rational to succeed in this endeavor.
1. Bad faith in negotiations with a signed and enforcible agreement (with the issue of police powers removed). It looks very bad when the city unanimously signs an agreement (which they freely did) to obtain land and then once it gets the land abrogates that agreement. What will the courts say about that, I wonder?
2. Already existing public roads which allow access to the property and are presently used for traffic both private and commercial.
3. Recent Florida laws restricting eminent domain to further commercial development especially when there are alternatives already in place.
4. The requirement for the city to pay for both sides of this legal dispute. (Where's the money for this going to come from especially after the Duck Tours gets their payments).
There are other arguments but these need to be addressed with legal arguments and not just fantasy rationalizations.

mark finkel said...

Interesting and rational points Mr. Keck. It would nice to see some thoughtful and reasoned reply to each of your points.