Local residents will have the chance to weigh in on two projects with major implications for the Upper Keys.

Two community meetings are being held by developers this week to discuss the transformation of the former Cemex property in Tavernier into a Publix supermarket, liquor store and affordable housing and a 7-Eleven at the current Anthony’s Clothing Store in Key Largo. 

In August, residents had the chance to hear more about the plans for a project that would bring a 64,000-square-foot supermarket, 263 parking spaces and some 80 affordable housing units to what’s now a vacant Cemex property. A project application was submitted by Blackstone Group – Tavernier 925 LLC, and owners Andrew, Richard and John Toppino, Luis Perez and Mary Hurwitz.

Specifically, applicants are seeking a text amendment to the Monroe County Land Development regulations that creates a “Tavernier Key Commercial Overlay District.” The overlay would amend provisions in the county’s land development regulations to allow nonresidential development of up to 70,000 square feet in that area. Bart Smith, the applicant’s agent, told the public there are plans for a deceleration lane going into the property with parking in the front. Toward the back of the property sits the affordable housing complex. No traffic from the development would spill out to neighboring streets, Smith said. 

Around 15 property owners spoke on the project in August, fearing more traffic, noise and change to the small community’s character would be the result. Monroe County’s Development Review Committee (DRC) met virtually on Oct. 25 to examine the proposed text amendment to apply a Tavernier Key Overlay District at the Cemex concrete property.

Cheryl Cioffari, assistant planning director, told the DRC that the developer must address questions they have over the project and its consistency with Tavernier’s community character and the Liveable CommuniKeys Master Plan (LCP) that extends from MM 97 to Tavernier Creek Bridge. County officials are also seeking a traffic study in the area of the development, which saw a new traffic light placed at U.S. 1 and Burton Drive heading into Harry Harris Park earlier in the year

A virtual community meeting to discuss the overlay to pave the way for the Publix, liquor store and affordable housing took place on Jan. 4. Coverage of the meeting will appear in the Jan. 12 edition of the Upper Keys Weekly and at keysweekly.com. 

On Thursday, Jan. 5, the community will get a chance to hear more about a proposal to construct a 4,736-square-foot 7-Eleven with around 10 pumping stations at the current 7,400-square-foot Anthony’s Clothing Store in Key Largo. There would also be a boat fueling station at the property’s western end, as well as 30 parking spaces. Owners Daniel and Archer Barry are seeking a major conditional use permit for the gas station that would be open 24 hours a day. The meeting will be held virtually on Thursday, Jan. 5 at 5:05 p.m.

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.