A resort intends to build 45 homes to house its workforce in Marathon. The site is just across the street from The Art Studio. GOOGLE MAPS/Contributed

Prime Group has completed the first step in building workforce housing for its staff in Marathon by applying for, and receiving, a conditional use permit. The plan is to build 45 workforce housing units at the former Longhorn Lodge site, across from The Art Studio. 

“We’ve already built some workforce housing units across the street from our Playa Largo Resort to take care of our own workforce,” said Jorge Cepero, a Prime Group representative. In Marathon, Prime Group has the Courtyard Marriott. Cepero told the Marathon Planning Commission it needs to retain good employees in the Keys in order to offer the best customer service. 

Cepero said the planned project would house mostly resort workers, but in the event there are surplus units, those would be available to the general public. He also told Marathon Planning Commissioner Mike Cinque that this would not be a “tax credit” project, and financing would be secured through the business’ normal channels.

In addition to the 45 units, Prime Group plans on building dry boat storage on the waterside of the property, and retail space at the highway edge of the property. Right now, the site has six building rights assigned to it. Prime Group has made an application for the workforce building rights from Marathon’s portion of 300 of the 1,300 granted by the state following Hurricane Irma. It is the second development to do so, just behind the Seaview Commons project planned for the Coco Plum neighborhood. 

Planning Commissioner Mike Leonard also asked Planning Director George Garrett for an accounting of recent and planned workforce and affordable housing units. According to city officials, about 163 units were approved in 2018 and are in some state of planning, permitting or construction.

“Marathon needs a game plan to make sure we don’t go too far the other way and end up with the same problem on the other side,” said Leonard. Garrett told the commission that the city is definitely in need of an “excess of 800 units.”

In other news, the planning board approved the rezoning, new FLUM maps and a conditional use for a property located on the corner of 100th Street and Overseas Highway, located between city hall and the former Pizza Hut. There is an existing duplex on the property and two more are planned for a total of six units. 

Both votes were unanimous; Planning Board members Pam Dobson and Jeff Smith were absent.

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