WHITE STREET PARTNERS SNEAKING IN UNDER THE RADAR, PEARY COURT DEVELOPMENT ROUND TWO

peary court

White Street Partners is sneaking in under the radar…again… with a new plan to develop Peary Court.  With the exception of two 8 inch by 10 inch placards affixed obscurely to the existing Peary Court fence, there has been NO notice given to the public regarding their highly evolved plans to create an unprecedented 24 acre “Olde Towne” development at Peary Court.  There has been NO official notice in anything of record, NO articles in the local newspapers, NO mention on radio or TV or the internet, NO meetings with the general public as promised last year when their original plans were shut down.  And yet, on this coming Monday evening at 5:30 PM at the Old City Hall on Greene Street, HARC will review this massive proposal and make a decision to give it the green light.  I’m not kidding.  This whole proposal, one shot by HARC, this Monday night.

How can this be?  How can a project of of this scale in the middle of and at the gateway to Old Town get so far with so little oversight?

In a last minute meeting this Sunday arranged at great effort by Meadows residents with WSP representatives  (Donna Bosold, formerly of HARC, and Jim Hendricks, formerly face man for Pritam Singh at Truman Annex), we were  shown only small scale plot plans of their new proposal.  They felt the architectural drawings were too complicated for them, and certainly for us, to understand, and were therefore deliberately with held.

It appears that everything existing, including all roads and infrastructure will be ripped out.  It will replaced with an all new road and a perimeter fortress type layout of maximum density and minimum setback and screening.  There will be 160 new “high end dwellings”, plus 20 additional “cottages”, tight to White and Angela Street, both of which will become walls of of houses and swimming pools.   The developers are refusing to reveal the total number of bedrooms proposed, but it is clearly far more than currently existing.  At the Eisenhower end, between Palm and Angela up to Pearl Street, there will be an immense 48 unit building complex (possibly a low income housing gulag–not integrated into the rest of the development) and large parking lot, pool, and gigantic water tower.  Renderings of these structures, which we were finally able to view at City Hall, are particularly shocking in both size and scale.  It looks like a prison camp.  All this to become the first face of Old Town to travelers headed into town on Palm Ave.

Openings will be made in the existing Angela Street fence, allowing the new Peary Court residents to access and park on an already overburdened Angela Street, Florida, Georgia, and Newton Streets.  A new traffic entrance will be created  at Fleming Street, and in a particularly bizarre development, the existing entrance from Palm Ave will be closed off, forcing all residents to use White Street, either traveling further on Palm or cutting through the Meadows.

Perversely, the interior of the development will be relatively open and free, almost park like.   The density of the housing, and the noise of the common areas, is being foisted on those of us on the perimeter, not screened inside or even along the more indifferent Palm Ave. corridor.

Not to mention the fact that the construction phase of this project will be TEN YEARS.  That’s right, ten years of noise, debris, dirt and dust on the scale of the Roosevelt Blvd project for everyone in the vicinity to endure.

HARC has never adjudicated a project of anywhere near this scale.  Their mission, and their ability, is to review one building at a time, not 24 acres worth.  They cannot green light this project on Monday night.  This requires much more attention and due scrutiny, as this is the largest buildable parcel left to developed in Old Town Key West.

If you care about Old Town, or about any of the issues such a massive project like this entails, talk to your fellow citizens, city commissioners, and town planners.  Above all, attend the HARC meeting this Monday at 5:30 and let your thoughts be known.

Lee Dunn

701 Florida St


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3 comments on “WHITE STREET PARTNERS SNEAKING IN UNDER THE RADAR, PEARY COURT DEVELOPMENT ROUND TWO

  1. This article first came to me in the form of an email from Lee to a group of affected Key West property owners near Peary Court. I had gotten on their emailings by attending the Sunday meeting at the Moose Lodge, after seeing Shirley Freemen getting out of her car there, as I pedaled by on my bicycle. When Shirley told me why she was there, I went into the meeting with her, and signed up to be on their emailing list. To Lee’s email, I sent this reply to the whole group:

    Are you folks, as a group, represented by legal counsel?

    If so, will your lawyer be there Monday night to speak to the HARC members?

    If not, I think you should get together and hire a lawyer who knows this area of the law.

    I looked at the developer’s “plans” on the city website. I don’t know much about reading plans, but I don’t see much, if any, resemblance to anything historical. I don’t see any blend-in with your neighborhood.

    The closing of the Palm Ave. entrance makes no sense to me, if the stoplight and entrance to the Navy housing across Palm Ave. will remain in use.

    HARC, besides probably being way out of its depth with this size development, does not want white roofs and solar panels on roofs. If HARC is that picky about architecture in its domain, it’s hard to imagine HARC blessing this new development with a straight face.

    Years ago, the Florida Keys were designated an area of critical concern by the Florida Legislature, because Monroe County had not dealt with septic tanks, cess pits and sewering the Keys. I am pretty sure it was after Jim Hendrick lost his law license that he started his own consulting company, Critical Concern, Inc. He helped Donna Bosold start a parallel company and mentored her and fed her business, as I understood from him. That was before they were married, which I think happened fairly recently.

    Jim was more than a face man for Pritam Singh in the Truman Waterfront development. Jim was Pritam’s lawyer. Before Jim went into private practice, he was Monroe County’s in house lawyer. I heard he also had a private practice, and that had something to do with him leaving his position with the County, conflict of interest and private practice more lucrative. However, it was when he was with the County that Jim learned a great deal about development and land use law in the Keys.

    Jim and Pritam are very close friends and I imagine Jim is involved in every deal Pritam does. When I was playing chess one day with Jim in his old law office, after he had lost his license, a fellow came in and he and Jim talked a while. The fellow got around to asking Jim if he thought he would ever try to get his law license reinstated? Jim was then on federal probation. Jim said he didn’t think so, he was doing everything he did when he practiced law but go to court.

    Make no mistake, whatever Jim calls his business, whatever he say he is doing, he is using every bit of his legal knowledge and experience. He consults for the Bernstein and the Walsh families with respect to Wisteria Island. Jim has other substantial clients. He is the go to person for big developments in this area, in my opinion. I’m telling you all of this, in case you do not know it already. You could not have a more formidable adversary.

    As I wrote in the column at goodmorningkeywest.com this past Monday, Jim was in the habit of taking a residence in Pritam’s developments, as his fee. Jim said last Sunday that he and Donna will live in the Peary Court.

    As I also wrote last Monday, Jim once told me that he viewed Pritam as the best salesman Jim had ever known, because Pritam is a master at getting people to see what Pritam wants them to see, and not see what Pritam does not want them to see. I imagine Jim is about as masterful in that way as Pritam.

    Although I’ve had no experience before HARC, I’ve had some experience with other Key West city government departments and their politics. It is weird terrain, to say it mildly. Common sense, fair play, the law, all can be moving targets, chameleon-like, or just plain upside down and backward. Doublespeak is common. Memories blur, fail. Promises evaporate.

    Personally, I think it’s nuts to raze the existing Peary Court and replace it with something far less compatible with Old Town and your neighborhood. Personally, pure greed seems to be the motive. the city has for some time been a good friend to developers. As if development is sacred.

    If I were in you folks’ position, I might do all possible to keep the Palm Ave. entrance like it is. That just might smoke out something else not yet visible. I am not yet convinced it’s all coming from the city to close that entrance.

    Sloan Bashinsky
    ex-lawyer (I quit, practicing law didn’t agree with me)

    Then, I sent this email to that group:

    In past times, I have seen city staff create parking places out of thin air for developments and redevelopments, and then be called on it during city commission meetings, and then it got fun, weird, maddening – another moving target.

    That hotel Pritam is building next to and behind Coffee Plantation, between Caroline and Green Streets, I saw him get grilled in a city commission about where his parking was going to be. Parking for his guests, parking for his employees. He got mad; first time I ever saw him lose his cool. I don’t know how it finally went.

    When I was looking over the plans online a few hours ago, This part below, with barracks and guard tower, reminded me of a concentration camp, I thought Auschwitz might be a good name for it.

    In addition to having a lawyer with you at Monday evening’s meeting, who knows what he/she’s doing, I suggest you also have an architect with you, who has been over the “plans” with a fine tooth comb.

    Sloan

  2. Sneaking?
    Sneaking?

    Lee Dunn is certainly entitled to his opinion about the Peary Court redevelopment plan. But to say that “White Street Partners [is] sneaking in under the radar” is far from the truth, as are his statements that “With the exception of two 8 inch by 10 inch placards affixed obscurely to the existing Peary Court fence, there has been NO notice given to the public” and “ NO meetings with the general public as promised last year when their original plans were shut down.”

    On Feb. 13, 2013, shortly after “the original plans were shut down” (i.e., withdrawn at a HARC meeting), I received and immediately responded to an inquiry from Tharon Dunn concerning the planning process going forward. On Feb. 24, I received an e-mail from neighborhood spokesman Steve Dawkins, who also requested a description of the process going forward, to which I immediately responded. That information was, in turn, circulated among the many neighbors on Steve’s Peary Court e-mail blast list.

    After Zyscovich Architects were retained to prepare a new plan for Peary Court redevelopment, I reserved space at Harvey Government Center for a community workshop and mailed invitations to all property owners within 300 feet of Peary Court. On May 31, 2013, I e-mailed invitations to the City Planning Department and to Steve Dawkins (for transmission to everyone on his e-mail list). Subsequently, I sent a public interest announcement about the workshop meeting to the Key West Citizen, and spoke to the Citizen’s reporter about the forthcoming meeting. Notice of the date and time of the workshop was published in The Citizen.

    The first community workshop was held June 7, 2013 at Harvey Government Center. Architects Bernard Zyscovich and Suria Yaffar made a presentation, solicited community input, and answered questions. The following day, the Key West Citizen published a news report on the workshop.

    Based on public input received at that first community meeting, Zyscovich Architects prepared a first draft of a site plan for presentation at a follow-up workshop. I again reserved meeting space at Harvey Government Center and drafted an announcement to be published in the Key West Citizen. Again, notices of the workshop were e-mailed to everyone on our list of neighbors and interested persons. On June 26, the day before the second workshop, I read and responded to e-mails from Angela St. neighbors, including Steve Dawkins and Tharon Dunn. Jim responded in detail to another Angela St. neighbor’s e-mail regarding the affordable housing component of the plan.

    The second community workshop was held at Harvey Government Center on the evening of June 27, and was well attended. Bernard Zyscovich and Suria Yaffar presented the new site plan, solicited comments, and engaged in dialogue with members of the public and City staff. Toward the end of the workshop, several neighbors took issue with staff’s position that Peary Court should have direct access to the neighboring Meadows.

    These meetings were called in response to neighborhood concerns and were in addition to the hearings required by City of Key West Code. We have consistently made ourselves available to answer questions and receive community input.

    Subsequent to the second community meeting Jim and I met with various neighbors on Angela Street, including a meeting with Linda Shields at her home, and a gathering at Steve Dawkins’ home. On July 1, I received e-mails exchanged among Angela St. neighbors, outlining the proposed compromise discussed during our meeting at Linda Shield’s home. I then exchanged e-mails with Steve Dawkins and a former HARC member concerning the proposed compromise.

    During the following weeks, City officials received numerous e-mails from residents opposed to providing access between Peary Court and the Meadows. Jim, I, and the project architects had discussions with Planning staff in an effort to find an acceptable compromise solution to this contentious issue. Following those discussions, Planning staff accepted the proposed compromise (no entrances or exits onto Angela Street for motor vehicle traffic; access for bikes and pedestrians only). Zyscovich Architects revised the site plan accordingly and began the laborious work of designing housing types.

    From time to time we received and responded to email or verbal inquiries from neighbors and other interested parties regarding the potential time frame for moving the project forward. In November, we disseminated information concerning a HARC meeting to authorize demolition of the former Credit Union building.

    In mid-February, 2014, the revised site plan and architectural renderings of proposed housing types were ready for submittal to HARC. At the recommendation of City staff, a Special Meeting of HARC was requested for March 10. Staff prepared public notices of the Special Meeting, and on Feb. 23, I posted those notices at the Palm Ave. entrance, and on White Street, Eisenhower Drive and Angela St. While posting the notice on Angela Street, I met and spoke with neighbors who requested that I participate in another informal neighborhood meeting to present the redevelopment plan and answer questions, which I agreed to do. At its Feb. 24 meeting, HARC voted to hold a Special Meeting devoted exclusively to Peary Court redevelopment plans. Following that meeting, Steve Dawkins and I discussed potential dates and finding a venue large enough to accommodate a neighborhood meeting. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of several neighbors, particularly Heidi and Marc Glasser, the meeting was scheduled and held on Sunday afternoon, March 2, at the Moose Club. Many neighbors attended, including Blue Newspaper publisher Naja Girard, as well as interested residents of other neighborhoods. Jim and I displayed large prints of the redevelopment plan specific to planning issues – the layout of building sites, the points of vehicular access, the points of pedestrian access, etc., and answered many questions about the plan and the review process. I described the lengthy process required by Code, including hearings by the Development Review Committee, Tree Commission (Preliminary and Final), Planning Board and City Commission (public hearings, all), and that there will be a Development Agreement with the City that will govern the progress and final layout of the project. The plan that is being reviewed by HARC at the March 10 hearing is an overview, not the final approval of any building. Because we are not architects, we didn’t address individual building-type designs; Zyscovich Architects will do so at the March 10 HARC hearing.

    At the conclusion of our March 2 neighborhood meeting at the Moose Club, we summarized three points that the neighbors agreed remain for further discussion with the Peary Court owners and Zyscovich Architects. For a project of this size and complexity to have so few unresolved major issues raised by its nearest neighbors is remarkable, and some credit for that should go to the extensive community outreach and dialogue that has taken place over the past year. Therefore, I was taken aback by Lee Dunn’s allegation that the Peary Court project is “sneaking in under the radar”. To keep Peary Court’s neighbors informed and involved in the planning process, I’ve spent the past year sending and promptly responding to dozens of e-mails, posting notices, contacting the press, organizing and attending two community workshops, and meeting with neighbors in their homes, most recently at the Moose Lodge. Perhaps Lee was back home in Nantucket and unaware of events occurring in his absence, but if so that does not excuse making accusations without ascertaining the facts.

    I encourage everyone who is interested in the future of Peary Court to attend the first of many public hearings on the new plans, to be held by HARC Monday evening at 5:30 P.M.

  3. What really goosed me at the Moose Lodge meeting was when Monroe County Mayor Emeritus Shirely Freeman asked, and asked, and asked, how many bedrooms would be in the new design, because that would indicate how many parking spaces would be needed for the new development, onsite and on the street, Donna and Jim kept saying they didn’t know, they were not privy to that information, it would be presented by the architect later. I found it a bit of a stretch to believe Donna and Jim don’t know how many bedrooms there will be in the architect’s new design. Shirley appeared and sounded quite upset about it. Jim sniped at her, and she said she did not appreciate it, her question was relevant and they never answered it. I hope the HARC Board is as perceptive as Shirley , as wizened as she is from her long years of service to Key West and Monroe County. If she has a bee in her bonnet about this new design, then HARC should harken in kind.

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