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The patience of the Village of Key Biscayne with the deteriorating Winn-Dixie loading dock ended this month when officials hit the shopping center’s landlord with a $224,500 fine.

Mar Bay Investments LLC owns the unit occupied by the grocery store at the Key Biscayne Shopping Center. Mar Bay, based in Doral, was first notified in April 2021 that the Village required repairs to the loading dock.

The shopping center is a retail condominium and  Winn-Dixie occupies Unit No. 3, where  it serves as  the Village’s only full-service grocery store. 

The order imposing fines against Mar Bay  was sent to Artemis Group in Doral, which is listed as the landlord’s registered agent, according to state records. 

In December, Mar Bay was notified by the Board of Special Magistrates – which hears cases involving alleged code violations – that fines would start accumulating at $250 a day. The Board on Oct. 6 levied the total amount, according to Village officials.

“It has now become a safety issue,” said Building, Zoning, and Planning Director Jeremy Gauger. “There’s multiple broken concrete slabs. So it’s not a small project.”

Gauger said the danger to the public is minimal since the dock is accessed exclusively by Winn-Dixie.  Winn-Dixie recently sold its stores to the German discount grocer Aldi, but the transaction is not expected to close until next year. Aldi’s plans for the Key Biscayne location have not been made public.  

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Gauger said Mar Bay  initially pledged to do the repair work to bring the dock up to code, but never followed through.

“Then they were like, ‘Oh, we’re just going to resurface it,’ “Gauger said, saying a resurfacing would be insufficient because of structural issues with the slab..

In recent months, the Village has not heard a word from Mar Bay or Winn-Dixie.

“They just don’t respond. They don’t do anything,” said Michele Estevez, a member of the Village Board of Code Enforcement Special Magistrates.

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Estevez said the fine may seem substantial but it pales to some levied by the Board, recalling one in excess of $1 million for a multi-unit building that did work without permits.

Miguel Lopez, a manager for Artemis Group, the agent for Mar Bay, said he had no comment but was aware of the fine.

On Friday, Winn-Dixie responded with the following statement:

“The safety of our associates, customers and communities is always our top priority, and we hold ourselves to a high standard of responsibility to be good neighbors to our Key Biscayne residents and visitors.

“We continue to have conversations with Mar Bay regarding this important issue, and we are equally eager for them to fully address and resolve this matter to best serve the community.”

John Pacenti

JOHN PACENTI is a correspondent of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.

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JOHN PACENTI is a correspondent of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.