Walgreens OK’d for Key Biscayne
A heavily debated plan to build a Walgreens drug store and an adjacent liquor store at the entrance to the Village of Key Biscayne won approval last week on a split vote of the village council.
The approval comes with several conditions, including limiting motor vehicle access from an adjoining shopping plaza.
The vote to approve the site plan and special use permit for the liquor store came after months of traffic studies, procedural and administrative maneuvers, a deferral from the council in December, and more than five hours of debate at a council meeting that began the night of Feb. 11 and concluded around 1:30 a.m. the next day.
Key Biscayne Gateway Partners owns property at 12, 22 and 24 Crandon Blvd., in what’s known as the entry block to the village.
The businesses at that site have closed, including a Cuban-themed restaurant, liquor store and hamburger diner. The property is in the C-1 Light Intensity Commercial Zoning District and has a Commercial Future Land Use Designation.
The project calls for construction of a Walgreens with a separate retail wine and liquor store. The company has a contract with Walgreens Co. under which the company agreed to lease part of the site to Walgreens, said David Puyanic, one of property owners.
Key Biscayne Gateway Partners is working with development company Morgan Group Ltd., the official applicant on the site plan filed with the village.
In the end, the village council followed the recommendation of Jud Kurlancheek, director of Building, Zoning & Planning for the village government.
As a condition of approval, a cross-access route from neighboring Harbor Plaza shopping center must be closed off to all motor vehicles. Golf carts and pedestrians could still use the route.
According to Mr. Kurlancheek, current traffic problems in the Harbor Plaza lot would be worsened with additional vehicles coming and going from the new Walgreens. The cross-access has been open and closed for long periods over the years, he said. The last property owner of the plaza had it closed for about 10 years.
“I’ve seen it opened and closed,” said Mr. Kurlancheek. It is currently open.
Another condition of approval is that the new development’s signs bear letters no larger than 14 inches.
The applicant’s original plans called for signage with letters 32 inches tall.
The project, and the village’s alleged handling of the site plan, led to legal action in December after the council chose not to vote on the site plan and put it off for two months.
Mr. Puyanic and Key Biscayne Gateway Partners accused village officials of purposely delaying action in an attempt to gain the land for a village park.
Representatives of the village, including village attorney Steve Helfman, denied those accusations.
Mr. Helfman had told Miami Today before last week’s council action that he planned to fight the legal action, and he said Key Biscayne Gateway Partners had no right to bring the complaint as it is not the formal applicant on the site plan.
Developers submitted a site plan and a conditional use application on March 6, 2013. The developers satisfied all legal requirements of the Key Biscayne Code of Ordinances for these applications to be approved, according to the complaint.
Nonetheless, the development company had been “repeatedly required to comply with fictional application requirements” fabricated by the village to have the application ruled on, the complaint alleged. These included requiring multiple unnecessary traffic studies that aren’t required by the village code, the developers said.
Some council members publicly defended delays, saying they were simply taking their time and considering all aspects of a new development and the impact it could have on the village.
Mr. Puyanic said the site plan has met village code since it was filed in March 2013, with no substantial changes since. He also said that before March the developers “went through a year of pre-meetings… and everyone said it looked good and met all the requirements.”
The legal complaint against the village council is still pending in the court, and it’s not known what impact the Feb. 12 conditional site plan approval will have.
When the vote was called at the end of the exhaustive meeting last week, council members Michael Kelly and Mayra Pena Lindsay voted against approving the Walgreens project.