Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Public Peary Court

What was a few years ago Navy Housing may soon become sort-of-affordable housing is the city commission agrees to put their latest plan up for public vote. The commission meets tonight and considers adding a two part referendum to the March elections. Happily I live in the county so I shan't have to vote but I wonder about this plan.
This was what the place used to look like when it was actual Navy Housing, guard hut and all. The Navy decided a few years ago they would rather have housing completely on base and declared Peary Court surplus to requirements. Then  a funny thing happened, the housing was taken over by a civilian contractor who also rented to civilians at $2,000 a house. The city decided they owed property taxes but lost that argument in court so what was effectively not-Navy-housing was still treated as tax exempt by a court ruling worthy of Alice in Wonderland judgement. The city lost about eleven million dollars in back taxes no longer owed...
Peary Court has always been controversial. I remember walking across it as seen below in this historical picture I found on the web. It was a rather scruff park and a useful short cut to Duval Street from Garrison Bight where I landed my dinghy (I lived on a boat anchored out). You can see one entrance at Eisenhower at the left, a loop road around the baseball diamond and a straight shot to Southard Street and the tall armory building on the right. 
When the Navy declared it wanted the land back from the city's informal use of the property there was an outcry and a former city commissioner locked himself in a trailer with some explosives and demanded the decision be reviewed. He ended up in jail and the transformation of what had been a rather pleasant open space...
...became rather drab but useful housing with proper streets, car ports and all modern conveniences. 
A developer bought the property a couple of years ago for thirty five million dollars and offered to turn the property into a sort of gated community "in the Key West style." That plan went over like a lead balloon with neighbors who protested long enough and loud enough the developers threw up their hands and now the city wants to get a mortgage and buy the exact same property from them for twenty million dollars more! Nice work if you can get it...
The idea would be to use Peary Court as affordable housing which is not a bad idea, depending on how you define "affordable" in this crazy city. In any event the plan requires two votes of approval from city voters to support the plan and then the financing as well.  Honestly I don't know what to think. The price seems outrageous but the outcome could be helpful in a city with no decent housing at a decent price for working stiffs. If this helps who will feel like opposing this fifty five million dollar plan? We shall see no doubt because everyone in Key West has an opinion and has no fear of expressing it if they have a private income and nothing to lose.
And yes, some residents will no doubt not be displaced...





2 comments:

arnie dilbard said...

DID YOU SEE THAT THE KEY WEST CITIZEN IN AN EDITORIAL SAID THAT PRICING THE RENTS--WHICH ARE NOW "SLIGHTLY ABOVE" THE MEDIAN FOR KEY WEST-- . .THAT PRICING THEM SLIGHTLY BELOW THE MEDIAN WOULD BE "RISKY" ??!!
RISK OF LOOKING AT WORKING PEOPLE?


--arnie dilbard

Conchscooter said...

People make all kinds of shit up to protect someone's interests. Its crazy.