City gives up alley, gets traffic calming

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By Jenna McKenna

At the last meeting of Cedar Key City Commission, the commission found itself reluctantly agreeing to vacate a platted alley in Coronet Park subdivision to landowner Ronnie Taylor in exchange for what they thought was a pretty good trade. Taylor reasoned in his petition that the alley was entirely encompassed by his private land, and was therefore of no benefit or use to the public. Furthermore, the alley divided a series of back-to-back lots that he hoped to replat and join into longer lots, due to the fact that the rearmost lots did not have enough buildable upland to develop and were therefore more valuable when joined to the buildable front lots. Finally, he noted that he had planned to create an access lane of Oak Street so that the property owners of his planned residential subdivision could enter their homesites off Oak Street, rather than have each individual lot accessed by driveways to State Road 24.

Commissioners found those terms agreeable, and further stipulated that he could not use the area of the alley either for density calculations or for Impermeable Surface Ratio calculations. They also were heartened by the idea of the replat that would join the front and back lots and provide an access lane, eliminating the problem of 10 more residential driveways on SR24.

Taylor returned to the commission meeting Tuesday for the final order of his petition, but asked that the commission consider modifying it. He stated that he did not recall the commission specifically stipulating a replat as a condition of the vacation, and stated that the replat demand was something he preferred not to have hanging over his head.

Commissioners were initially bewildered, and wondered how a replat came to have such importance in the resolution.

Taylor said it impeded his freedom to do business with the property, in the event that he wanted to sell a parcel separately. He said he would be unable to do so if the vacating of the alley would not be effective until the approval of the replat.

City attorney David Coffey reminded the group that the reason the replat was important was because they had considered the access lane from Oak Street extremely beneficial for traffic calming in that part of SR24.

As a further argument for his side, Taylor produced a plat map of Coronet Park showing a number of existing homes that had been built on the site of vacated former alleys.

Commissioner Vanessa Edmunds also mentioned that someone had asked her, after the last meeting, whether the city had asked Taylor for any land in return for giving him the alley.

Taylor noted that he had already donated some 400 acres to the Nature Coast Conservancy in 2002.

Coffey mentioned that Taylor was interested in discussing another land transaction with the city, and noted that Taylor was willing to cede a 40 by 60 lot at the west end of Fourth Street in exchange for permission to use a portion of the right of way adjacent to the Key Motel in order to calculate the ISR for the Key Motel parcel.

Taylor is in ongoing negotiation with the city of Cedar Key over the disposition of the old Key Motel, which the Historic Review Board had tried and failed to place on the local register of historic sites earlier this year.

Part of the sticking point had been Taylor's recognition that historic designation would severly limit his freedom in using and developing the parcel. The city and HRB have said they were interested in assembling a system of incentives to motivate owners of historic properties to participate in historic listings and compliance.

The land use swap would enable Taylor to pursue more flexible parking options with the Key Motel property.

"I don't know if it would work, but is it the sort of thing you would entertain?" Coffey asked the commission.

"If the driveway was gravel and underlaid with filter fabric to clean the runoff, I would consider it," answered Commissioner Sue Colson.

The commission voted unanimously, with Commissioner Pat O'Neal absent, to accept the final petition as read, including the replat stipulation.