John Foster may have just heard “Last Call” on his attempt to breath life into a derelict building.
He’s currently under contract to purchase the building and former of the Overseas Lounge at 3574 Overseas Highway.
The bar and package liquor store has sat empty since closing in 2008 and was deemed non-conforming after 18 months of non-use at a recent Planning Commission meeting.
Attorney Frank Greenman filed an appeal to the Marathon City Council on behalf of Richard Warner, who represents the estate of Joseph Ardolino, II that currently owns the building, to reverse that decision.
This past Tuesday night, several residents offered their opinions to the council based on the establishment’s history of rowdy clientele as well as the proximity of a bar and package store to Stanley Switlik Elementary School, including Derick Johnson, who said he was one of the earliest occupants at Overseas Village adjacent to the former bar.
Johnson said while a patron there, he had many discussions with the previous proprietors “who knew it was non-conforming.”
“They even had a going out of business sale and asked for public assistance from the community,” he continued. “This is a property that could be well utilized, but across from a park and a school full of children, I believe this property has much better uses.”
Many argued on behalf of Foster and his son, Dustin, who asked the council whether or not they wanted another big box store like CVS or Dunkin Donuts or rather desired to preserve a historic building erected in 1938 before power was even connected in Marathon.
“You have a man who’s bringing in his own money to beautify something that’s a part of history,” argued Little Venice resident Regina Hardy. “Why would you deny him that right? What really makes this town ugly is all the properties that have been abandoned, are blighted, derelict and ugly.”
Despite an impassioned plea from Attorney Frank Greenman on behalf of fellow counsel Richard Warner representing estate of Joseph Ardolino, II the Marathon City Council stood firm on the Planning Commission’s decision, citing a recently denied appeal filed on behalf of Atlanta-based businessman Joe Gallardi to build an adult entertainment establishment on the corner of 15th Street in Marathon – the former site of the now defunct Mermaid Club.
“The estate has the opportunity to come back and apply for conditional use at which point they can state intent and use for what they’d like to do,” said Vice Mayor Dick Ramsay just before he motioned to deny the appeal.
“As much as I’d love to see a bar and liquor store, the only parameter they’ve done differently than the former Mermaid is that they left the building standing there,” said Councilwoman Ginger Snead.
In other business:
• Community Image Advisory Board chairman Peter Chapman reported to the council that his committee is working actively with Public Works Manager Carlos Solis to advertise a request for proposals to install additional trees in the U.S. 1 median through Marathon. Chapman also inquired with the council on the feasibility of taking over maintenance, particularly mowing and edging of the median.
“I’ve been complaining to the city manager that the grass is up to your knees right before Thanksgiving and the beginning of our season,” said Mayor Pete Worthington, to which Snead posed to the council that perhaps a maintenance item should be added directly into the city’s overall operating budget.
“Marathon has always been responsible for its own destiny,” she noted. “We need to make sure tourists stop here for more than gas or a pee break on their way to Key West.”
• City Manager Roger Hernstadt reported that after receiving 93 applications for the vacant fire chief position in Marathon, he hoped to bring the top three candidates to the council for public vetting in by the next regularly scheduled meeting in December and have the most qualified individual on board by January 2012.
At the urging of the council, he was directed to respectfully decline an offer from Monroe County to share services with current Chief Jim Callahan.
“We thank the county for making that offer but don’t think it’s going to be the right fit for us,” said Councilman Rich Keating. “We need to move forward with our own chief.”