Key Largo RV Park Residents Get Month's Reprieve
With a court-ordered deadline to vacate Key Largo Ocean Resort rapidly approaching, residents of the beleaguered RV community in the Florida Keys have won a brief delay in their eviction notice.
Circuit Judge Luis M. Garcia ordered on Dec. 10 the resort was to be vacated by midnight Friday, Jan. 15, citing code violations and safety hazards. Now, Garcia has apparently had a change of heart, according to keysnet.com.
On Tuesday (Jan. 12) he extended the deadline to Feb. 28 for approximately 50 permanent residents to leave the property, under some conditions. Each unit must have at least one fire extinguisher and two smoke alarms. Non-resident shareholders are still bound by the Jan. 15 deadline.
When he announced the Dec. 10 ruling, Garcia said he had toured the 22-acre oceanfront property and saw propane tanks sitting dangerously close to homes, narrow passageways that would not accommodate fire trucks and emergency vehicles and substandard building materials and techniques.
The resort's board was recalled on Dec. 21 and a new board was installed in its place. The new board filed a motion last week asking Garcia to rescind his ruling to close the park, or at least give property owners more time to correct the building and fire code violations. Resort staff reported that the property has been improved since Garcia's ruling, with derelict boats, cars and propane tanks removed.
On Jan. 8, a Monroe County Sheriff's deputy posted notices on the door of every resort residence, instructing occupants to "vacate your premises on or before midnight, Jan. 15, 2010," as Garcia had ordered.
Many full-time residents of the resort say they are elderly and have health issues that would make relocation especially difficult. Meigla Valdes is caring for her terminally ill husband, Orlando. "We bought here when we were younger, so we knew when we retired we would have a place that was not expensive. It's a different kind of life with the boats and the water and we like all of that," she said.
"I'm very sad about Judge Garcia, because he said once that he doesn't want to see this place closed, but now it is closing. So why did he say that? Just to give us hope?"
Resort property owner Ann Evans said the extra time will allow the residents to achieve what they've wanted to do all along.
"It gives the park a chance to do what we've been trying to do for many, many years," she said. "That's for us to come into compliance."
But Donald Craig, a former consultant for the old resort board, said it will take much more than moving old boats and propane tanks to achieve compliance.
"The judge has told the new board that they have only one option, to bring the property into compliance," he said. "But, the development agreement and the code says all structures there must be elevated. There's no way that can be done in the time they've been given."
Monroe County officials have said the park must be completely redeveloped according to an approved plan to rezone the property and replace the more than 300 semi-permanent RVs with new modular housing units.