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Key Largo Free Press Article

February 11, 2004

By Steve Gibbs


Premature Issuance of Commercial Permit Claimed

In a February 11, 2004 article by Steve Gibbs, appearing in the Key Largo Free Press, Attorney Lee Rohe is quoted as saying, "The Growth Management Division (under which the Monroe County Planning Department operates) has become an advocate for developers. They regard anyone who doesn't take the same point of view as an adversary. They are supposed to be neutral, but they've even lost the appearance of neutrality."

Rohe who represents a coalition of clients is fighting the approval of the Walgreen Drugstore construction permit. He says the permit was issued prematurely. The County approved the granting of the permit in November as part of a settlement agreement after the builder filed a civil right law suit against the county. Mayor Nelson signified the agreement in December and a permit was issued.

Atorney Rohe says the process was " a departure from ordinary standards." He points to the fact that the Walgreen site plan was approved before NROGO - the Non-resident rate of growth ordinance was enacted. He also takes issue with the process in that issuance of the permit relies on the transfer of 5,800 square feet of space from the decade long defunct Marvin's Restaurant. He argues that county codes state that if a non-conforming commercial site has been abandoned or unused for six months the the square footed may not be transferred. Planning Director Marlene Conaway indicated the transfer was allowed because of a change in policy voted on by the Planning Commission in October of 2003. Conaway also stated that Marvin's Restaurant was vested as part of a court case. Rohe stated the last permit expired in 1992 and that the restaurant "lost its lawfully established status as a protected non-conformity a decade ago. Rohe feels the Planning Department is favoring developers and filed a writ of mandamus with the court requesting that the permit be suspended. A lawsuit had been filed in October of 2003 challenging the transfer of commercial footage from Marvins to the Walgreen's site. This is the basis for Rohe's claim that the county acted prematurely.


Also noted in the Key Largo Free Press on February 11, 2004 was the filing of Monroe County Mayor Murray Nelson with the County Elections Supervisor for a second four-year term as county commissioner.





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