KEY LARGO — Southcliff Estates, a proposed 28-unit housing project on Snapper Lane, has been resubmitted to the county planning department for a major conditional use permit.
Owner Rick Riehl and developer Frank Pla have resurrected their plans after their previous effort was derailed in 2017 by upset neighbors and the Monroe County Planning Commission.
The mile marker 95 project, which proposes to include a mixture of low and moderate affordable housing and a central pool and cabana on 1.87 acres, initially failed to muster a super-majority vote of the five-member board and was opposed by a petition signed by about 20% of surrounding residents.
Three of the five commissioners voted in favor of the project based on staff recommendations. One commissioner dissented and one was absent from the meeting. A 4-1 vote was required to pass.
“We went into the final meeting with one commissioner absent and we shouldn’t have. We learned some hard lessons the first go-round,” Riehl said.
The planning commission later denied Southcliff Estates’ appeal, claiming the developer failed to address recommendations that were germane to the Florida Department of Transportation.
“I have a right to do something with this land,” Riehl said Friday. “It’s been sitting here for years. I’ve had to fence it to keep people from dumping on it. I really feel like this is the right thing to do. We want to make this a really nice place for families and to have it fit in with the community’s character.”
The entrance/exit to the site would be accessible near the entrance of Snapper Lane, which Riehl drives by daily to get to his home.
“This is where I live. I want this place to be beautiful. I want to do a good job. I want to do a percentage of low-income and moderate housing to encourage the teachers, the firefighters and the people who work here in the Keys to live here,” Riehl said.
Pla said the vegetation buffer between the development and neighboring properties is bigger in the latest proposal.
“We’ve increased the buffer, which will be good all around. There is a directional right exit to keep the traffic out of the neighborhood. We want to be respectful to the neighborhood,” Pla said.
The project includes three-bedroom duplexes, two-bedroom duplexes and one-bedroom quadraplexes.
Riehl said they may consider elevating the homes to mitigate flooding and increase parking and storage areas.
The housing is proposed for a large tract of open space between the Sunrise Estate and the Lime Grove Estates neighborhoods.
Resident Barry Peterson is concerned the proposed project as it stands isn’t materially different enough from the original plans.
“The most important aspect is addressing the deficiencies and resolving them from the prior application,” he said.
Still, Riehl and Pla remain optimistic that the county may be more receptive to the project.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to add more affordable housing in the area,” Pla said. “The need for it is definitely still here.”
A community meeting about the proposed development will take place on Zoom at 5:05 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 24. To join, visit mcbocc.zoom.us/j/93022955701 or call 646-518-9805 or 669-900-6833.
The pending application is available on Monroe County’s website at https://tinyurl.com/y28s928v.