by Amber Nolan and Naja Girard
You may remember the Blue Paper’s coverage of the Appelrouth Business Corridor proposal (published on June 17th). If you missed it, follow this link and also have a look at the video below that accompanied that article:
The item was on the June 26th meeting agenda but was postponed until this Tuesday [August 7th].
In a nutshell, a small group of well-connected property owners around Appelrouth Lane – which is zoned HRO (low intensity commercial, residential, and no transient rentals allowed) wants a special "corridor" created that would include only their properties.
Many of the activities occurring on these properties are not allowed in their HRO zoning district (such as transient rentals and restaurants) but since they were already occurring when the HRO zoning district was created they are "grandfathered-in."
There are hundreds of these "non-conforming" properties throughout Key West. Key West code allows owners to rebuild them if needed, retaining the right to exceed height or setbacks that already existed. However, the code states while they can rebuild in the same "3-dimensional footprint," they may not expand any of those structural non-conformities.
If grandfathered-in property owners are "using" their structures in a way that is prohibited in their zoning district [like the Appelrough gang] they may continue the prohibited use, but the code says they may not expand that prohibited use.
If they want to (or need to - for example because of hurricane damage) rebuild a structure that has a grandfathered-in use, such as a restaurant or a hotel, for example, they may expand their building footprint (within code) but they may not use any of that additional building square footage to expand the "non-conforming" use. They could, however, use the additional square footage for any other uses that are allowed in their zoning district -- non-transient housing, for example.
They may apply for a variance to get around some of these obstacles, but there is no guarantee the variance would be granted.
When it comes to expanding transient rental use - there is a specific code provision that prohibits "new transient units" in the HRO zoning district. It's even in the City's Comprehensive Plan.
These property owners don't want to be limited by the rule that prohibits expansion of non-conforming uses and new transient units. [Who does?] They want the City Commission to enact a special law that applies only to their properties that would allow them to add new transient units and expand commercial uses that are prohibited in their HRO zoning district.
Even more daring. They are asking to expand those non-conforming uses onto each other's properties. Even if a prohibited use is not grandfathered-in on their particular property they would be allowed to conduct the activity if the City approves their application.
And they want these uses, prohibited for every other property owner in the HRO district, to apply to them "as of right". In other words, the City would have no way of saying "no you can't do that" in the future when they come in for a development permit.
When this idea was first put forward, the Planning Director at the time, Thaddeus Cohen, recommended denial because he thought creating a special privilege for one small group of property owners would create a dangerous precedent.
The proposal got through the Planning Board with the approval of all members other than Gregory Lloyd. It was passed unanimously at first reading by the City Commission.
Tuesday will be the second (and final) reading.
UPDATE: The City Commission voted unanimously on August 7, 2018 to create a new "corridor" that in effect exempts just these four property owners from the prohibition in the code against new transient rentals in the HRO district and erases, just for them, the city-wide prohibition against expansion of n0n-conforming uses.
[Note: This article was updated for clarification purposes on August 10th]
Click on article link below for the details:
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