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Marathon, Florida Planners Work Toward Decision on Zoning to Dole Out
Hotel-Unit Allocations Resulting from the Lifting of a Longstanding
Moratorium on New Transient Units

By Ryan McCarthy, Florida Keys Keynoter, MarathonMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

July 14, 2012--The city of Marathon is inching closer to finalizing a method for doling out its newfound wealth of hotel-unit allocations.

The City Council on Tuesday invoked "zoning in progress," a precautionary measure relating to staff-proposed amendments to the city's land-use plan.

City Planning Director George Garrett said zoning in progress assures the city that any permit sought dealing with proposed changes to the land plan would abide by whatever changes are made.

It's "so we can work the details out on whatever sections of the code we're modifying," he said. "There's no change in the permit process really. I can't imagine there's anyone coming in the door that would be affected by any of these changes."

Chief among them is a subsection of city code dealing with how to distribute the 100 units -- plus the ability to borrow forward another 100 awarded by the state Cabinet in January. The state decides how many permits can be issued in the Keys.

Last month, the council approved an amendment to the land plan lifting a longstanding moratorium on new transient units, allowing the city to instead "manage" new development.

Until now, the only way to secure existing room rights was purchasing them from private owners. The city held public meetings to hear from those owners and others concerned about the pool of new units. -- The city took numerous suggestions, but perhaps the most prominent prerequisite to apply for the 100 units could be a 4:1 ratio for units in possession to units awarded.

The city's advisory Planning Commission is scheduled to consider an ordinance dealing with the transient units. Its meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday at the fire station at 8900 Overseas Highway.

Other proposed changes include removing a requirement -- inherited from Monroe County when the city incorporated -- to notify property owners of a potential non-conforming use.

The change is due in large part to a lawsuit filed against the city by the estate of Joseph Ardolino, which owns the former Overseas Liquor and Lounge.

The bar was grandfathered around a 2007 law banning liquor sales at businesses within 1,500 feet of a school, church or other establishment selling liquor. It closed in 2008 and, after 18 months, the city said becoming a bar again would be a non-conforming use.

The estate argued it wasn't properly told about the non-conforming use, while the city argued the publication of its new land development regulations was by law considered notification.

The council sided with its attorneys and denied the estate's appeal, leading the estate to sue the city. On April 24, Circuit Court Judge David Audlin reversed the ruling and the city filed a motion for rehearing and/or clarification of Audlin's order.

"We're going to make sure it's not a problem in the future," Garrett said.

In other business Tuesday:

--Vice Mayor Dick Ramsay received a tepid response to his idea to put a sign directing drivers to Sombrero and Coco Plum beaches on the traffic mast arms at the intersections leading to each.

Ramsay said he'd discussed the idea with Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce and state Department of Transportation officials.

"This was a straw vote. I have no major attachment to it other than it seems like a good idea to show off our assets. If we can consider bringing this forward getting input from the chamber and the public, it would be good.

Council members Ginger Snead and Mike Cinque said the city should be working, like Monroe County is, to reduce the number of signs along U.S. 1, not increase them.

"We have to do something about the sign litter we have and we should be working on it. The number of signs along the bike path is insanity. I think we should reduce some signage before we add some," Cinque said.

--The council unanimously approved a $1.46 million fiscal year 2012-13 contract with the Monroe County Sheriff's Office for police services. Sheriff's Office Capt. Chad Scibilia said the contract includes a small increase, roughly $32,000, that accounts for cost-of-living adjustments for 14 deputies.

The contract is not to exceed $1.46 million, but the Sheriff's Office is known to present a refund check to the city each year. It was $164,073 for fiscal year 2010-11.


(c)2012 the Florida Keys Keynoter (Marathon, Fla.)

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