Friday, February 25, 2005

Truman Waterfront Update

I got a copy of the TAMPOA Agreement (Resolution 00-43: A resolution of the City Commission of the City of Key West, Florida, Approving the Attached Agreement Between the City and the Triuman [sic] Annex Master Property Owners' Association (TAMPOA); Providing for an Effective Date) at the City Planning Office. It was executed on January 21, 2000.

There are no real surprises in the agreement. It provides that TAMPOA allows limited public access to the Truman Waterfront property now owned by the City over that part of Southard Street that lies within Truman Annex. Truman Annex is the condominium property purchased from the U.S. Navy by developer Pritam Singh in the 1980's or 1990's. Singh's company developed land and buildings as high-end residential housing and sold the residences in condominium form. The history of Truman Annex is replete with its own set of questionable agreements and practices, some of which have to do with commitments to affordable housing, others having to do with rights to rent residences transiently.

The extension of Southard Street from Thomas Street through the former Navy base and into the Truman Waterfront have a history as a quasi-Public Way. The State Park at Fort Zachary Taylor is currently accessible only over that road, and has been so since its establishment as a State Park in 1985. Additionally, the Truman Waterfront Property has been used for a variety of events, notably the Offshore Power Boat Races, since at least 1999, again with access via the road in question.

TAMPOA asserted its right to close the road through its property by challenging the City Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Regulations, an action that could have adversely affected the transfer of the Waterfront property from the Navy to the City. The TAMPOA Agreement was the compromise chosen by the City to mitigate the concerns of TAMPOA about traffic impact on their properties.

What's done is done. One could question whether the City gave away too much in the agreement, but it does exist as a Resolution duly entered into by both parties.

The agreement is explicit on a number of points:

- The duration of the agreement is eternal, or until the City no longer wishes to assert its rights to use the road.
- The City must provide alternate access points to the Waterfront within two years from the date it officially acquires the Truman Waterfront Property. The official date of acquisition was December 3, 2002.
- The City shall provide ingress and egress via Fort Street through Olivia Street; shall provide ingress via Petronia Street; and shall provide ingress and egress via Truman Avenue to Fort Street. [Emphasis added]
- TAMPOA may convert its owned portion of Southard Street to one-way egress only from the Waterfront upon completion of any development on the Waterfront property having traffic impact on TAMPOA's property. They have the right to control ingress by means of gates. (Exceptions are allowed for emergency vehicles and Historic Tours of America trains and trolleys.)

There are other terms and conditions, but these are the main ones.

Commissioner Carmen Turner, in whose District the Waterfront property and all of the named streets are located, made a very strong statement at the Commission's Workshop with its consultants on February 8 that she will not see the majority of the traffic burden fall on the residents of her District. As I wrote on February 11, Commissioner Turner was firm in saying that she would not tolerate that the burden of traffic would fall unequally on the residents of Bahama Village.

I haven't been able to locate any more up-to-date information since the February 8 meeting. The consultants haven't updated the Truman Waterfront Website, and no other meetings are scheduled yet. There will need to be a formal Commission meeting to adopt changes to the Comprehensive Plan, at a minimum, and I expect that there will be further public hearings before that vote is taken.

No one has mentioned (yet) something that I think is worthy of exploration. The law of Eminent Domain allows government to take private property (with fair compensation) for public purposes. In this case, the property subject to taking would not be anyone's home or business, but a street that has a history of public use, certainly not more than about a quarter of a mile long, with only a few residences that actually front on it.

I'll continue to follow this matter and intend to support Commissioner Turner as long as she continues to look after the interests of Village residents.

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