Concerns and questions from the public remain over a grocery store project and the transformation of a current clothing store to a gas station and convenience store in the Upper Keys.

A Jan. 4 virtual community meeting on the proposed Publix supermarket and liquor store in Tavernier heard another round of resounding concerns from a number of residents. The meeting was required before Monroe County’s Planning Commission takes up a proposed amendment to the county’s land use district map and county land development regulations to allow for what’s being called a Tavernier Key Commercial Retail Overlay District. The meeting followed a November county Development Review Committee gathering, which noted inconsistencies with the project and Tavernier’s Liveable CommuniKeys Plan.

The county planning commission would recommend approval to the five Monroe County Commissioners, who would have the final say in the matter. If approved, it would allow for construction of up to 70,000 square feet of nonresidential space at the now-defunct Cemex property near Mile Marker 92.5, oceanside. Current code only allows for 10,000 square feet of nonresidential floor area. Developers want to build a 64,000-square-foot structure for Publix, which is larger than stores in Key Largo and Islamorada.

“We still have not seen any evidence in documentation as it currently stands that the applicant has responded to the previous staff comments on addressing concerns with Liveable plan and the Tavernier Community,” said Al Aldrich, who’s a member of the Tavernier Community Association. “I hope that prior to this being allowed to go to the planning commission that we hear from the applicant as to how they will try to address that.”

A level 3 traffic study is required to be supplied by the applicant. Jess Goodall, who’s representing the applicant, said they’re addressing county comments.

Per an October county staff report, a 64,000-square-foot Publix would generate more than 6,200 daily trips. Add in the 86 affordable housing units the developer plans to build, and those daily trips increase to 6,780.

Local resident Chris Sante acknowledged that the traffic flow would be greatly affected in an area that saw the Florida Department of Transportation install a traffic light at the Burton Drive intersection.

“There’s no way to get 6,800 cars in there,” he said.

Oliver Kraut, of Tavernier’s Ocean Shores, criticized the project and had concerns with a project that would help the Cemex property value increase at the expense of residents in the area whose home values, he said, would plummet.

“If you listen in general and ask the question, is this right or is this wrong, just in a simple form like that, if you listen to all the people speaking who own property who have made an investment, all of them say it’s wrong,” he said. “All of them will be negatively impacted, whether it’s traffic (or) whether it’s environmental. They’re all negatively impacted.”

A date to consider the proposed amendment by the planning commission hasn’t been set.

Residents attending a Jan. 5 community meeting regarding a major conditional use request to develop the 7,400-square-foot Anthony’s Clothing Store at MM 98.2 into a 4,736-square-foot 7-Eleven gas station and convenience store were met with opposition. Many locals speaking during the virtual meeting felt that there wasn’t a need for another gas station. Owners Daniel and Archie Barry are proposing 10 fueling stations and a boat fueling station to go along with a 24/7 convenience store. READ HERE

Jim McCarthy is a Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 3-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, mixed martial arts and golf. He loves to hit the links and play some softball with his Make A Play team. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.