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Key Biscayne

After tense hearing, Key Biscayne village council approves new Walgreens on the former site of La Carreta restaurant

 

The property owner remains unhappy that the site won’t be accessible from an adjoining shopping center.

ldixon@miamiherald.com

Key Biscayne village council members have approved plans for a new Walgreens with a liquor store near the corner of Crandon Boulevard and Harbor Drive. The stores will be on the former site of a La Carreta restaurant.

Village Council members voted 5-2 at the Feb. 12 meeting to approve the new store, after extended debate among developers, village officials and their attorneys. The main point of contention was whether the council would approve access for cars between the Walgreens, which would be at 12 Crandon Blvd., and the neighboring Harbor Plaza shopping center.

The village’s planning and zoning director, Jud Kurlancheek, told the council that vehicle access between the shopping center and the store would be dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists, and would likely cause more accidents. He suggested that the parking lots of the two properties should not be connected.

The council decided that access would only be given to pedestrians, bicycles and golf carts, and that cars would not be able to drive directly from the shopping center to Walgreens, but would instead have to go out to Harbor Drive turn north onto Crandon Boulevard and make a U-turn to access the store.

Representatives from Morgan Property, the developers for Walgreens, and Key Biscayne Gateway Partners, the property owners, argued that the shared access would aid the flow of traffic between the plaza and the new store and would prevent increased traffic on Harbor Drive and Crandon Boulevard.

Trey Morgan, the president of Morgan Property, said he was disappointed with the conditions of the council’s vote.

“We don’t agree that it was the right decision, but we have our building permit now and we’re moving forward,” Morgan said.

Beyond the discussion of the cross-access, the property owners and developers’ attorneys accused Kurlancheek and Village Attorney Stephen Helfman of “fraudulent misconduct,” saying the village delayed the process and made the cross-access an issue, “in order to significantly de-value the property and to possibly force Walgreens to walk away from the deal.”

Helfman said these accusations are “groundless.”

“They’re irresponsible, they’re unethical and there’s absolutely no basis for them,” Helfman said.

Neisen Kasdin and Michael Winkleman, attorneys for the developers and property owner, also argued that the village unnecessarily conducted another traffic study after Atkins, a consulting and planning firm, conducted the initial study. They also released a large document including emails between Helfman and Darlene Fernandez, a project manager with Atkins, where Helfman expresses the council’s “disappointment” with the study and asked for a discount on the firm’s fees.

The village later had Miles Moss, president of Moss and Associates, conduct a traffic study. He went to a nearby CVS and counted cars there as an estimate of how the Walgreens would attract vehicles and traffic to the area.

Helfman said the council did not rely heavily on the traffic studies in making their decision.

“My impression was that the council relied mostly upon their own experience and the testimony of the residents who have used the Harbor Plaza driveway system,” Helfman said.

Max Puyanic, president of Key Biscayne Gateway Partners, said he and his partners are still considering their next step and maintain that members of the village leadership behaved inappropriately.

“They want to put a smokescreen on the poor behavior of members of the village, the village attorney and members of the village council,” Puyanic said. “We think this was government running amok.”

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