Publix expected to open April 2018

This time next year, Islamorada residents could be grocery shopping at their local Publix.

A former bowling alley on the mile marker 83 bayside lot is scheduled for demolition this week and site work on the project is supposed to begin June 1, according to an email from Village Manager Seth Lawless to the five-member Village Council sent Thursday morning.

Equity Development Group, the project’s developer, hopes to open the store by April 1, 2018.

The project survived an unsuccessful two-year lawsuit filed by locals opposed to the Lakeland-based chain opening a store in the village and a November 2014 ballot initiative asking Islamorada voters to approve a law that would limit commercial development in the village to 10,000 square feet. The referendum failed.

The mile marker 83 Publix is expected to be 34,062 square feet surrounded by 161 parking spaces.

Equity Development Group, the project's developer, said the store would create 100 year-round jobs and pump more than $24,000 into the village via taxes every year. Equity also said building the store would put up to 200 construction workers to work.

The lawsuit against the project was filed in early 2014 by the Bay Hammock Homeowners Association and a group called Keep Islamorada Peaceful Prosperous and Safe. The lawsuit argued the store is too large for the village commercial zoning and that it is out of character with the rest of Islamorada businesses.

But the village planning staff concluded that according to their interpretation of village code, the supermarket does belong there. The 4.6-acre footprint is home to six defunct businesses, so the land is already primed for a commercial business to occupy the space.

A federal appeals court panel in 2008 quashed a village ordinance similar to what the 2014 referendum aimed at that prohibited chain stores from opening in the village. The judges found the ordinance discriminated against interstate commerce by favoring only local businesses.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals said in its ruling that "Islamorada had a number of pre-existing 'formula retail' businesses" already and did not have any historic buildings or districts to qualify it as having any legitimate definitive "community character."

David Goodhue: 305-440-3204