Commissioner Sam Kaufman laments lost opportunity

The red circle on the above diagram of Truman Waterfront Park shows the 3.2 acres slated for affordable housing. CITY OF KEY WEST/Contributed

A Key West nonprofit that had proposed a 100% affordable housing development at Truman Waterfront has withdrawn its proposal.

A.H. Monroe had submitted an unsolicited proposal to build 80 to 100 units of affordable housing at the city’s waterfront property, and a majority of city commissioners had signed on to co-sponsor a resolution supporting the proposal.

Then the Bahama Village Redevelopment Advisory Committee, which was created to advise the commission about Bahama Village projects and concerns, objected to the proposal because it was not chosen as a result of a competitive bidding process.

While the directors of AH Monroe did not specifically cite the Bahama Village committee’s concern in its withdrawal, City Commissioner Sam Kaufman told the Keys Weekly that it likely contributed to it.

“The board of directors of AH of Monroe County met today and voted to withdraw our proposal for consideration to develop the 3.2 acres in Bahama Village until the city’s charter is changed to allow 50-year leases,” AH Monroe executive director Scott Pridgen wrote to city commissioners in an email on Friday, March 19. “On behalf of the board of directors and myself we thank you for the opportunity and we’ll continue to express our interest in the 3.2-acre project.”

In response, Kaufman, the original sponsor of the resolution to accept AH Monroe’s proposal, drafted a statement that said, “Commissioner Kaufman thanks AH of Monroe County, Inc for submission of their proposal and accepts their board’s decision to withdraw their offer given recent events. 

“City management has advised that the development of affordable housing will be delayed possibly for years as important grant deadlines will be missed. It is also highly doubtful that the city will receive the same quality proposal from another developer, providing 100% affordable housing, emphasizing lower income categories, providing a set-aside for affordable home ownership from a local non-profit sensitive to the history of the Bahama Village community. This is a great disappointment as for our working residents and families especially those who care about and love Bahama Village.”

In his email response to Pridgen and the AH Monroe board, Kaufman wrote, “I want to thank AH of Monroe, Inc for stepping up after being asked by the City to submit a proposal to develop affordable housing at the Truman Waterfront 3.2 acres property. I thank you because your organization rose to the occasion and produced a proposal unlike anything the city has seen during my tenure as a commissioner. I thank you also for putting up with bizarre and unwarranted criticism. As a chair for the past two decades of another non-profit organization (FKOC), I completely understand your position and respect it. As the City lost a wonderful opportunity to work with your extraordinary agency on this project, I look forward to working with you on other projects to benefit our community.”

The city commission was slated to consider the housing proposal at its March 16 meeting, which was canceled because it was not publicly noticed. That meeting has been rescheduled for March 31, when the withdrawal of the proposal likely will be discussed. 

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