Monday, June 08, 2009
What does Pepe Diaz have against Albert Vigil? ... by gimleteye
It was quite a moment in the parking lot, when Citizen Pepe Diaz called Albert Vigil a racist. The moment was in Marathon, after a zoning meeting of the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners on May 20th. A 3-2 majority of the county commission had just voted against something that Pepe Diaz and Calusa Campground's attorney, Tew Cardenas and Santiago Echemendia, really wanted: a zoning change for the condominium association where Pepe owns at least one lot. There are rumors that straw buyers have been buying up lots in Calusa for the past couple of years. In the photo above, Calusa is what you see sticking into Florida Bay. The zoning change would upzone the 367 RV park, filled with hundreds of code violations including trailers converted to immoveable residences, to a Destination Resort classification.
In Miami-Dade County, where Pepe Diaz is a county commissioner, I've seen the race card played time and again by developers who accuse opponents of not sharing whatever Cuban-American values their applications seem to be steeped in. And I've seen county commissioners do it too. (Natacha Seijas) The problem with Albert Vigil is that he is also Cuban American. Oops.
So what does Pepe Diaz have against Albert Vigil? (Please click, read more.)
RV sites. Trailer parks. Mobile homes. Whatever name you call them, they have been an integral feature of low cost housing and temporary destinations in the Florida Keys, for decades. The conversion of these "campgrounds" in the Keys was the last play of the real estate boom. It is still the play, in the case of Calusa Campground.
The problem for Calusa Campground is that the condominium association does not own the road connecting to US 1. That property is owned by Albert Vigil, a Keys' businessman who has been locked in a multi-year fight over the legal question, whether or not there is an easement right for Calusa to US 1. Vigil has been willing to sell the property to Diaz et al., but Diaz et al. have been unwilling to meet his price, originally over $1 million. Last week, a Monroe County judge ruled in favor of Calusa, removing an obstacle to the Monroe County Commission approval of the zoning change sought by Calusa.
When and if the zoning change occurs, the owners of teeny lots will have the right to build a single-family home or trade that right as the case may be. How could a county commission allow 367 homes to be built on a parcel (Calusa) that is scarcely 20 acres? Maybe that is not what Pepe Diaz and his investors want to build. So, what is the end game? I'll write more on this, later.