Key Largo residents living near the proposed 7-Eleven development — at the current Anthony’s clothing store — have traffic safety fears and say that it could result in more accidents. A representative working on behalf of the developer said the gas station would only collect traffic going in and out of the Keys and not add more vehicles.
A Jan. 5 virtual community meeting hosted by county planning staff and the developer’s agent, Jason Green, was required before the county planning commission takes up a major conditional use request sometime in the next 45 to 120 days. Owners Archer and Daniel Barry are seeking to transform the clothing store at MM 98.2 to a 7-Eleven convenience store with 11 fueling stations. The application was submitted to the county in February 2022.
Green, who presented the project on behalf of the applicant, noted that the 7-Eleven sits on a larger site in comparison to nearby gas stations. As a result, he said accessibility to the gas station and maneuvering in and out of the property will be easier in comparison to visiting others.
Plans currently show four one-way driveways to enter and exit the property. A previous proposal showed four two-way driveways. Green said the Florida Department of Transportation believed it was safer to reduce conflict points on U.S. 1 and eliminate any traffic hazards that some people were worried about during the early project stages.
“The design was to really create opportunities for people to see the site, slow down and make those safe turning movements into it rather than a jerky turn off that backs up traffic,” Green said.
He went on to add that gas stations with convenience stores capture traffic differently than a clothing store.
“It’s not a destination. People don’t drive from Miami or drive from Key West to go to a gas station, unlike the existing use which is retail use, which is a destination,” he said. “Gas and convenience stores are not; they’re pass-by.”
Grand Street resident Rosemary Donnelly voiced the difficulties her family, friends and neighbors face trying to cross U.S. 1 from their street to head south. She fears a 7-Eleven will bring more congestion to the area. Donnelly has two children who cross the road in order to head south for class at Coral Shores High School.
“I’m stressed every morning,” she said. “I’m stressed when my elderly neighbors have to cross to go south.”
Buck Donnelly has lived in the neighborhood across from the proposed 7-Eleven for roughly 20 years. Donnelly, too, shared his unease when cars cross U.S. 1 from Grand Street, as those entering the neighborhood and crossing northbound traffic have a hard time seeing oncoming traffic.
“It’s so incredibly obscured,” he said. “You have to pull out so far onto oncoming traffic that your body is 8 feet past the white line where your car should be stopped.”
Donnelly said he’s been involved in two accidents while witnessing multiple others.
“We cannot put the safety of our citizens, our community, our family members, staff of our businesses and our customers in jeopardy because someone wants to have another convenience store that’s going to make them money in this area,” he said.
John Kocol owns property in the area of the proposed project. He, too, has witnessed collisions from people trying to pull off of U.S. 1. He urged the county and the developer to seek deceleration lanes so motorists can slowly and safely exit the highway. Documents by the applicant show that a deceleration lane is currently being reviewed by FDOT, but it’s not guaranteed.
“I think you’ll have a lot of problems with collisions here. Please make it safe if you think you’re going to approve this,” Kocol said.
The planning commission will need to take up the matter between now and March with the completion of the community meeting. Before the planning commission takes it up, the county’s Development Review Committee will discuss the major conditional use request on Tuesday, Jan. 24.
A separate element to the 7-Eleven proposal is a variance request to reduce the required separation distance for curb cuts from 245 feet to roughly 150 feet. That request will go before the planning commission on Jan. 25.
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