|By Ryan McCarthy, Florida Keys Keynoter, (Marathon, Fla.)McClatchy-Tribune Regional News |
Dec. 30--In Marathon, 2012 was all about new hotel rooms: The state Cabinet awarded the city 100 transient units in recognition of progress made toward installing central sewer and stormwater systems, a state mandate.
The city spent much of the year deciding how to distribute those units, while several developers submitted amended development agreements in hopes of securing their fair share.
There had been a moratorium in place on new units since the city incorporated in 1999, and the City Council had to approve changes to Marathon's land-use plan to allow their allocation.
The city held several meetings early in the year to gather input from interested parties on requirements to apply for the units. Several provisions were approved, most notably a 4-to-1 ratio, meaning a project could receive only one unit for every four in hand.
The council in December granted amended development agreements to the owners of the former Crystal Cove Resort and the Bonefish Bay Motel. Crystal Cove owner Marvin Rappaport plans a 113-room Marriott Residence Inn on his 7.3-acre lot near mile marker 50, while Bonefish Bay plans to increase from 20 to 25 units.
Roger Masters and partner Prime Hospitality Group were granted an amended development agreement in October for a proposed Courtyard by Marriott near mile marker 48. They increased to 95 rooms.
In previous months, the Spottswood Cos. increased a planned Hyatt at Faro Blanco Resort from 100 to 125 rooms, Pritam Singh added 16 one-bedroom units to his Tranquility Bay Resort agreement and Coconut Cay owner Jim Rhyne increased from 22 to 42 units.
At the final regular City Council meeting of 2012, City Manager Roger Hernstadt said the application for the 100 units was finished and available to developers. The council is expected to award them in early 2013. Another announcement at that meeting is a Jan. 17 special meeting to discuss a five-year capital infrastructure plan.
With all-consuming sewer construction coming to a close, council members are ready to move on to more other projects. First on the list are plans for a new city hall and a possible Public Works building. City Hall is now housed in trailers.
The city is also continuing with a popular project in 2013, agreeing to a $162,734 contract to plant 140 trees and thousands of ground-cover plants along the U.S. 1 median from Aviation Boulevard to Coco Plum Drive. The first round of trees was planted in April and May 2011.
The city's long-running push for a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility at Florida Keys Marathon Airport ended successfully when the County Commission agreed to move forward with the idea in September. It's estimated to cost $1.15 million and be funded using state Department of Transportation grants.
The Customs office would make the Middle Keys an official federal point of entry for non-commercial international flights and cruisers.
Also in September, the council gave final approval for a much-debated $1.1 million zip-line course at Crane Point Hammock. Proponents have argued the course, which popular in numerous tourist destinations around the world, would be a boon to the struggling nonprofit. Opponents say it will interfere with native habitat and that estimates of revenue and job creation stemming from it are grossly exaggerated.
A Dunkin' Donuts and Valero gas station opened months behind schedule in December. Its Miami-based developer went bankrupt and the Texas oil giant stepped in to see the business opened.
In October, the city made another concession to help keep Maytag Clean Laundry owner Donna Farmer in business. Hers is the only such business in the Middle Keys.
The council approved a "Laundromats" category to its sewer-fee schedule, agreeing to reduce her 19.11 equivalent dwelling unit charge (the basis for system fees) by 75 percent. The same reduction would apply to any similar business to open in Marathon.
The city finalized an unusually simple 2012-13 budget in September. Little to no changes were made to the originally proposed $10.82 million spending plan. The approved tax rate is 2.1989, or $2.1989 per $1,000 of assessed property value. It was a 7.2 percent hike from the prior year.
On the crime front, a six-member jury found Marathon resident Pierson Villalobos guilty Oct. 25 of two felonies counts each of driving under the influence manslaughter and vehicular homicide. He was driving a car that killed two fellow Middle Keys residents in a 2009 accident.
Villalobos was scheduled for sentencing in November, but it was delayed until at least January. He faces 30 years in prison.
On July 29, Conch Key resident Carolyn Duke shire shot and killed her neighbor, Martin Mazur, over a can of Busch Light beer.
The so-called "sea hag" had no prior arrest history in Monroe County, where she's lived for 17 years. She reportedly did lobster-trap work for Mazur in the past.
Duke shire was arraigned in August; no further progress has been made in the case. She remains jailed at the Monroe County Detention Center on Stock Island.
(c)2012 the Florida Keys Keynoter (Marathon, Fla.)
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