Thursday, January 20, 2005

Preparing for battle

At the urging of the Key West Neighborhood Association, I and others wrote e-mails to the Planning Board in advance of tonight's hearing on the Watermark development. A sampling of them was sent to members of the KWNA this morning. I reproduce them here.

We moved to Key West in 1999. The Key West Bight and surrounding area quickly became our favorite area of the town due to its overall ambience and reflection of "Key West as it once was". It is of tremendous importance to the future of the city as a vacation destination that we retain as much as possible of the sense of its history. The Watermark project, as currently designed, is clearly anintrusion into perhaps the most pristine, historically-important, and indeed residential sections of Old Town KeyWest.

When the Conch Republic Seafood Company was built, and particularly when theConch Harbor Marina property was redeveloped, on two edges of the Historic Waterfront, one could already see the potential for that kind of"redevelopment" that robs an historic district of its heart and soul.Watermark now strikes at the very core of that district with a project design that is clearly doesn't conform to the guidelines and ordinances that regulate development there. It is of a scale and design that both overwhelms all that is around it and will sit as an ugly interruption in the architectural and historic integrity of the Historic Waterfront.

We are not an anti-development-for-any-reason people. We recognize that property rights are a valuable and transferable asset, and that the owners of the project do have the right to build upon the land
they have invested in. However, the city and its citizens also have the right, explicitly claimed in their codes, ordinances, and
guidelines, to maintain the character and integrity of the city and its heritage.

You all are our guardians in these matters. We hope that you will recognize that there are defects in the plans as they currently stand, and hope further that you will see to it that the builders of Watermark show proper respect to the wishes and desires of our community.
* * *
I'm sure by this time all of you have heard more than you'd care
to hear about the pros and cons of the proposed Watermark Project at
the site of the former Jabours property. While I've followed the
various stages of the process to date I feel that the project never
should have received HARC approval to begin with. It violates the
basic intent of the HARC committee which as I understand it is to
basically preserve the historic "look and feel" of any proposed
development within the Historic District. Watermark clearly does not
merely on the basis of its' scope and presence, dwarfing everything
in the immediate vicinity.

All of you still have the ability to preserve the character of the
Historic District by disapproving this project and requiring that it
be scaled down to be more in character with the surrounding buildings
and seaport. I am hopeful that the charming, historic character of
Old Town may still survive this challenge to its integrity.
* * *
My wife and I have a home on Curry Lane and have been coming to Key
West for the past eight years. We enjoyed our first visit there so
much that we purchased and remodeled our current home with the idea
that we would move to Key West soon and make it our permanent home.
One of the reasons we like it so much there is because the town has
such character. We are afraid that the direction that the Watermark
Project is taking will do serious damage to the beauty and
architectural character of the community.

We would ask you to please hold the line on the historical laws
regarding the preservation of what Key West has always represented. As
much of an inconvience and additional expense that the Watermark
developers would incur, that is what we believe would be best for Key
West. We, as most all other home owners who renovated were required to
adhere to the standards that helped preserve Key West, we feel that
Watermark should also be held to these same high standards.


We will go to the Planning Board meeting at 6PM to listen and offer support to those who wish to have the Board enforce the limits that are established by ordinance and force the developers to submit a plan that falls within those limits.

For an objective view of the issue, see this article from the Keynoter.

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