an aerial view of a small town by the ocean
Property where the former concrete plant once operated in Tavernier. DAVID GROSS/Keys Weekly

Monroe County commissioners will decide at their meeting on Wednesday, June 21 whether developers can construct up to 58,500 square feet of nonresidential development for a grocery and liquor store on Tavernier property that once housed a concrete plant.

A previous request by developers sought the ability to build up to 70,000 square feet of nonresidential floor area. 

A change to the county’s land development code, which currently allows for up to 10,000 square feet per nonresidential structure, will ultimately determine the proposed construction of what’s now a 58,454-square-foot Publix and liquor store. The previous proposal detailed a 64,000-square-foot store. A May 25 letter by the developers’ agent, Bart Smith, states that the proposed Publix would fit the architectural design and community and character of Tavernier. 

The Toppino family, which is developing the site, is also looking to construct some 86 workforce units. 

In April, the county planning commission voted 3-2 to recommend the BOCC deny the request by developers to increase the nonresidential floor area per structure. The decision came following two-and-half hours of discussion among the concerned public, Smith and the planning commission. 

Smith stated that the property’s suburban commercial zoning already allows for such uses as commercial retail, offices and restaurants.

Devin Tolpin, county planner, noted that the proposal is inconsistent with the Tavernier Liveable CommuniKeys Plan, which spans from Tavernier Creek to MM 97. The plan prohibits designation of new commercial land use districts beyond that contained in the master plan in order to protect the existing availability of the U.S. 1 corridor area and community center. A county staff report on the proposal states that no amendment shall be approved “which will result in an adverse community change to the planning area in which the proposed development is located.”

Al Aldridge, Tavernier Community Association board president, said approval of an overlay would “set a precedent other developers will surely follow and preserving the small-town environment of Tavernier will become a memory of the past.”

The BOCC meets on Wednesday, June 21 at 9 a.m. at the Murray Nelson Government Center. It’s unknown when exactly the BOCC will take up the matter, as time approximations for agenda items are no longer provided by county officials.

Jim McCarthy
Jim McCarthy is one of the many who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures in Western New York. 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 5-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club. When he's not working, he's busy chasing his son, Lucas, around the house and enjoying time with family.