Months after Key Biscayne approved plans for a new Walgreens at the entrance to the village, the issue came up again at last week’s Village Council meeting.
Fifteen residents voiced their opposition to the store, on Crandon Boulevard at Harbor Drive, and called for council members to offer “a fair price” to Max Puyanic, the owner of the land.
Council members voted 5-2 on Feb. 12 to approve the new store, after extended debate among developers, village officials and their attorneys, but some residents remain adamant about wanting the village to buy the property and turn it into a park.
“It's not too late to negotiate to purchase the property,” Michelle Estevez, of Crandon Boulevard, told the council Tuesday night.
“It's so important to preserve what we have,” said Lois Greenberg, also of Crandon Boulevard. “We don't want any more commercial property.”
Betty Conroy of Crandon Boulevard told council members: “I'm looking at you all because this is in your hands. That entry way sets the entire tone for our village.”
Mike and Donna Rice of Redwood Lane, who are the owners of Harbor Plaza Shopping Center, which sits next to the future site of the Walgreens, said the council's previous action to close off the rear driveway cross-access between the two sites and allow access to only golf carts, pedestrians and bicycles – not vehicles – through the access-way “will have a negative effect on my tenants' businesses, cause additional traffic problems on Harbor Drive, and so far have generated three lawsuits.”
The village’s planning and zoning director, Jud Kurlancheek, had 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. The Rices showed council members a proposal that would correct current traffic problems and if accepted “could make two of the current lawsuits go away and take most of the wind out of the third.”
Council member Michael Kelly responded to all who voiced their opinions regarding the fate of the entry block, saying: “It's been recommended by the council to discuss this in an executive session on May 27 – it can not be addressed in a public hearing due to the lawsuits.”
Although village councils must meet in the open in Florida, state law allows an exception for meetings in which council members discuss a specific lawsuit with their attorney.