by Ben Volpian…….

It appears that in the near future there will be a combined meeting of the Key West City Commission, the Bahama Village Redevelopment Advisory Committee (BVRAC) and the Truman Waterfront Advisory Board (TWAB), of which I am a member, but writing here as a private citizen. I’m not sure if this meeting will be a tug-of-war or a food fight (build vs. don’t build – build vs. don’t build), because I’m guessing that the main topic to be discussed will be – to build a commercial development or not on Gilleran Field aka the Fort St. Field aka the Petronia St. Field (that I have called it in the past).
Another subject could be whether or not to demolish the Police Athletic League (PAL) building with its accompanying Horse Stables, but even though this action or non-action is related to the open lot, that is another story.
Using foresight, it seems to me like our generation has the opportunity to leave a legacy of the last public, open space field, Petronia St. Field, “as is” with no commercial building on it. Others don’t see it that way, and want to build on that field. Could a commercial area filled with shops be a good thing in some respects? Yes, absolutely, “IF” there was more open space to compensate for the loss, but not a good idea when this beautiful open space would have to be sacrificed. It’s not only just the loss of the open space that would be devastating, but also the strategic location of the lost space that makes this crucial to keep the open space for the City of Key West, the Bahama Village area and the Waterfront Park.
Some point to the Truman Waterfront Master Plan as proof that the field can’t be left alone and has to be developed, as it is designated as a future development site on the Master Plan. They contend that the Master Plan is etched in stone, however, during a little over the past year the Master Plan has been changed at least 9 times by my count. Then there is the referendum that passed by over 73% of voters in the Bahama Village area and a majority overall in the other districts that allowed for part of the Park to be used by the Bahama Village folks, “IF” approval was also voted in favor of this idea by the City Commission. Meaning that the referendum that passed was also not etched in stone.
Along these same lines, a City Commissioner pointed out that although almost 77% of voters in a 1996 non-binding resolution voted to change to at-large voting (instead of single-district voting where a City Commissioner is voted for only by the people in his/her district) – and the city charter revision committee recommended at-large voting in both 2002 and 2011 – officials have not made the change. “Nothing happened,” the commissioner said about public opinion that appeared to favor at-large voting. “And because nothing happened, sometimes you have to give the city credit for what it didn’t do…there was wisdom there.”
Develop a lot that is geographically in the south, the last public, open space field in the entire Continental United States of America? That is what we want to leave for future generations? That is our idea of leaving a lasting 100 year legacy? No, I think we can do better than that by using our and other’s hindsight – to help give us the foresight to NOT BUILD on that last open lot.

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