Keys Campground Access Issue Draws Crowd
Uncertainty over access to U.S. 1 led the Monroe County Commission in the Florida Keys to delay voting on a development agreement for a Key Largo campground.
The owners of Calusa Campground, on the bayside at mile marker 101, want to redevelop most of the 367 RV units into seasonal rentals, and correct numerous code violations in the process, but no longer own a highway access road they’ve used for many years, according to KeysNet, Tavernier.
That’s caused concern among neighboring Harbor Drive residents that their street will become a primary access road to the campground.
A court decision is expected soon to determine Calusa’s access to U.S. 1, and Commissioner Sylvia Murphy said she’d just as soon wait until it’s made to vote on the development agreement.
“I will tell you right now if you get access in from U.S. 1, I will vote for the development agreement. I’m not going to vote on it today. I feel we’re being put in a position that if we agree to the development agreement and the decision goes against you, then we are put in the middle of this,” Murphy said.
Calusa Campground Condominium Association Inc. is suing MnM’s of the Keys Inc., and Meleric Investments Inc., claiming it has the right to use the access road to the campground from U.S. 1.
An attorney for Calusa said Murphy’s motion to delay the vote was ill-founded because the campground will have access to U.S. 1. Chief Assistant County Attorney Bob Shillinger agreed based on his review of the case.
Both Calusa Campground and Harbor Drive residents filled the meeting room at the Murray E. Nelson Government & Cultural Center. Commissioner Mario Di Gennaro said the commission was unnecessarily delaying its vote.
“They’re all on the edge of the seat and we’re wallowing and not making a decision. We’re building up tension in our community; what the hell are we doing?” he said.
Numerous Harbor Drive residents spoke and most agreed Calusa should be allowed to redevelop, but not to their detriment. Many pointed out the code violations there and numerous complaints about campground residents made to the Sheriff’s Office.
Jose “Pepe” Diaz, a Miami-Dade County commissioner who owns a Calusa RV, took exception to complaints aimed at the campground’s largely Hispanic population.
“We have a court system and it’s there for a reason. Your job is to hear the facts on the merits of the project,” he said. “This whole agreement is about fixing these issues. Every time we turn around, there is a new issue.”
But Murphy said she wants a guarantee Harbor Drive won’t end up as the access road to the campground. Her vote remained the same despite a lengthy public hearing.
“They want an agreement that will change the use for them. I’m all for that; it’s part of the community and if it’s changing … that’s absolutely fine, but wherever you are, you must have access,” she said. “This could go on until the face of this commission changes and they will end up on Harbor Drive.”
The commission voted 3-2 to put the development agreement on the agenda for its June meeting, to be held in Marathon. Di Gennaro and Mayor George Neugent dissented.