KEY WEST, FL – The Monroe County Board of County Commissioners met Wednesday, May 16, 2018 at the Harvey Government Center in Key West. Here are some highlights:
POSSIBLE MARINA PURCHASE
The Board voted 4-1 to allow County staff to continue to investigate the purchase of the Murray Marine property on Stock Island for the purpose of protecting and preserving recreational working waterfront, providing a public boat ramp and creating a shore-side facility for a planned 40-boat mooring field at nearby Boca Chica Basin.
The 6-acre property (two acres of upland and 4.5 acres of privately owned bay bottom) is listed for sale at $8 million. The owners have expressed a willingness to enter into an installment contract in which the County would make payments over time. The marina supports 60 businesses and is currently a profitable turn-key operation, with net earnings estimated to be $564,000.
“We are asking staff to bring back the best deal they can put on the table,” Monroe County Mayor David Rice said. “By then, we will have more financial information from the budget meeting (on May 23 at 10 a.m. at the Marathon Government Center).”
Monroe County’s Information Technology Director Alan MacEachern provided a presentation to the Commission about steps that have been taken or planned since Hurricane Irma to significantly improve the County’s communications reliability and capabilities for voice, TV and data in preparation of another significant storm.
The discussion on this topic also included the pros and cons of allowing a proposed, privately-funded 1,043-foot communications tower to be built on Cudjoe Key. Mark Pallans, a private consultant hired by the County, stated the tall tower would be beneficial for improved radio, cell and TV service in the Keys, but would not “solve the communications issue.”
Baptist Health South executive Rick Freeburg told the Commission that Fisherman’s Hospital in Marathon will take about 3-4 years to be rebuilt following its destruction by Hurricane Irma. In the meantime, Freeburg said the non-profit hospital is operating out of temporary facilities and is losing about $1 million per month, in part due to serving many uninsured and underinsured people.
Freeburg asked the County to help offset the losses until the new hospital is in operation. The Commissioners all expressed the importance of the only hospital to the Middle Keys and directed the County Attorney to initiate steps to establish a short-term, municipal service taxing unit (MSTU) for property owners in the Mile Marker 40 to 63 area of the Keys. It also directed the County Attorney to work on a resolution for a referendum to go before voters in that district for a MSTU that lasts about 10 years. The items would be brought back to the Commission at a future meeting for a vote by the BOCC.
The Board approved a resolution to reserve 16 affordable housing Rate of Growth Ordinance (ROGO) allocations for moderate income category or lower for a proposed Habitat for Humanity project at Cutthroat Harbor Estates on Cudjoe Key, at about mile marker 22.1 along the Overseas Highway. The board also approved waiving $84,088 in building permit fees for those units.
GOVERNOR’S KEYS WORKFORCE HOUSING INITIATIVE
The Commission discussed the Keys Workforce Housing Initiative proposed recently by Gov. Rick Scott to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO). The Commission decided that it does not have enough information to provide a yes or no answer to whether the County would like to accept up to 300 additional affordable housing ROGO allocations for rental workforce housing.
The County currently has 555 affordable ROGO allocations available and 812 market rate allocations available, which two commissioners said could potentially be converted to affordable. The County’s growth is limited due to it being one of Florida’s Area of State Critical Concern.
The Governor’s initiative allows up to 1,300 additional affordable housing Rate of Growth Ordinance Allocations (ROGO) for rental workforce housing throughout the Keys and with conditions. Those conditions include developments that receive these ROGO allocations have a rental management agreement in place that requires rental occupants to evacuate in the early phase of a hurricane evacuation – 48 hours in advance of tropical storm winds reaching the Florida Keys. It is the same time frame that current transient units (hotels, etc.) and mobile home occupants are required to evacuate in the early phase of a hurricane evacuation.
The initiative would allow for the County and each of the Keys’ five municipalities to receive up to 300 allocations, with the likelihood that the smaller municipalities of Layton and Key Colony Beach would ask for only a combined 100 allocations or so.
The initiative is an agenda item for the state Cabinet meeting on June 13 in Tallahassee.
The Cabinet will decide whether to approve the housing initiative as a concept. If it is approved, then the County and municipalities each would decide whether to accept additional allocations. In order for the government entities to accept their allocations, they would need to make changes to their individual comprehensive plans.