Building and completing more road projects is among the most significant issues Keys officials face as the phase-out of 2021 approaches. On November 18, Monroe County officials provided members and Islamorada council staff for updates on plans to reduce liability for levies and a transportation plan that recommends key projects along the village road stretch.
Stepping onto the podium as the new mayor of Monroe County, David Rice said the check will arrive soon as it relates to the more than 8,000 lots in the Keys that will not have building rights. Of these, 1,070 private vacant plots are located in Islamorada.
It stems from the Monroe County Growth Rate Ordinance (ROGO), which was implemented to allow rapid and safe evacuation of the islands in the event of a hurricane. And with the Keys being designated as an Area of Critical Interest by the state legislature in 1979, the implementation of ROGO in 1992 also aimed to protect Monroe County’s natural resources.
Based on a 24-hour evacuation model, the state issued 3,550 ROGO permits through 2023, including 1,970 for Monroe County and 280 for Islamorada through July 2023. County officials have chosen to reduce annual permit allocations from 126 to about 60 per year to expand distribution until 2026. The move gives county officials time to develop plans to acquire land and remove rights to land. construction to reduce liability for future catches.
Islamorada did not extend its allowances until 2026 like the county. Twenty-eight building permits are issued per year in the village. Emily Schemper, the county’s senior director of planning and environmental resources, told the podium that the village could pass a similar amendment to extend the last three years of its ROGO allocations.
“If you (the village) could put an amendment in place and come into effect by next summer, I don’t know if you have the time to do it in terms of the process, you could spread out your last (allocations) over four years and you until 2026. But that would be a significant reduction in the number of units you distribute each year, ”she said.
A 2020 census showed more residents lived in the Florida Keys. Schemper said the state departments of economic opportunity and emergency management will implement an evacuation model. Hurricane modeling results are unlikely to be known until late 2022.
“We assume that we will not get more building permit awards. Those extra packages that are out there, they could potentially be lawsuits in the future against the state, county and cities if we don’t get more permits, ”she said.
One of the potential solutions to alleviating levy claims is funding under the Florida Keys Stewardship Act for land acquisition. About $ 5 million is allocated to secure land in the Keys, but Christine Hurley, executive director of the County Land Authority, said the state’s Department of Environmental Protection had failed. on average only $ 1 million worth of land purchases in the Keys since the passage and signing of the Stewardship Act. in 2016.
Hurley said Islamorada County and Village Chief Greg Oravec has teamed up to demand that the DEP buy more land in the Keys.
“They say we don’t really bring them willing sellers that they can buy. It’s kind of a community’s job to tell them what’s for sale and what the DEP should be focusing on, ”said Hurley.
The policy and potential future programs described by Schemper to mitigate revenue claims include increasing the tourism impact tax or sales tax. The county is also examining areas of adaptation action focused on climate change to prohibit development where rising sea levels would put land under water. Schemper said he received a grant to come up with adaptation ideas and language.
“The county has not yet sought to adopt them, but staff are working on the next step to take to the council,” she said.
On the transport side, the Monroe County commissioners recommended in early November a set of road and infrastructure projects as part of a US master plan 1 on which the state must focus. A total of 183 projects have been identified to improve traffic and reduce congestion in order to improve safety. The single section of the Islamorada road was recommended to determine whether improvements to turn lanes or access management were needed. The projects also include an examination of the possibility of improvements to the old road to better serve as a front road.
Commissioners also prioritized replacing the Snake Creek Bridge, which is currently part of the Florida Department of Transportation’s five-year work plan, and transforming the weigh station in the Upper Keys into a weigh-in-motion station. .
Schemper said the county was working with municipalities in the Keys to seek their feedback to prioritize the projects. Once this step is completed, a special meeting will take place in January 2022 to compile the projects. By February 2022, a list will be sent to the State Department of Transportation.
NOTABLE RESOLUTIONS PASS
After the presentations were completed, Islamorada board members adopted 16 resolutions. Among the items approved was an improvement design for the Founders Park dog park. With a project cost of $ 197,981, approximately 59,000 square feet of natural glass will be installed. Other amenities include a tiki hut and four tiki umbrellas, a reception area with a leash hanging station, garbage depots, dog splash areas, a paddling pool and washing station, seating areas additional and agility equipment.
The project is made possible thanks to a grant from the Tourism Development Council, which will reimburse the village 100% of the costs of the project.
An agreement with Deckard Technologies to purchase access to its Rentalscape software has been approved, in an effort to combat illegal vacation rentals. A contract to provide short-term rental identification and monitoring services would last one year and cost $ 25,000.
Phase two of the canal restoration work on Lower Matecumbe for data collection also received council approval. The agreement is with Wood Environmental & Infrastructure Solutions, and the costs will not exceed $ 58,928. Islamorada is moving forward with the assessment and implementation of culvert connections at strategic locations on canals 150, 151, 152 and 155. In addition, the project will include the assessment of the addition of a culvert connection under US 1 of channels 155 to 157 to increase flushing.
A resolution was approved to purchase 500 stainless steel check valves for the village low pressure discharge line at a cost of $ 144,000. In July, council members approved the purchase of 100 valves. The valves were found to have an estimated failure rate of 90%. Funds have been included in the corporate wastewater fund for the cost of replacement.
Council members said “yes” to approve and provide eight affordable housing allotments to develop the Woods Avenue lots and nine affordable housing allotments to develop the Gardenia Street lots. At a meeting on September 2, board members approved Habitat for Humanity and Gorman & Company to develop the sites into affordable / workforce housing.
Council members also approved an agreement with Holiday Lightscapes Inc. for the installation of decorations throughout the village for the holiday season. Some of the places that will see the holiday decor include the Islamorada Welcome Sign, North Plantation Key Stoplight, Founders Park, Islamorada Village Hall, Hurricane Monument, and Craig Key. These areas will be decorated with LED lights, garlands, wreaths, interactive selfie functions, pole mounted and ground level decorations.
The installation of the decorations would begin on November 30 with an expected completion time of five days. An adopted budget allocated $ 50,000 for holiday decorations. The idea for the holiday decorations came from City Councilor Henry Rosenthal at his first meeting after the November 2020 election.
“It really is something that we have never seen in Islamorada,” said Mayor Buddy Pinder. “It will be a different Christmas. It will be beautiful.
The Islamorada Village Council will hold a special meeting on Thursday, December 2 at 5:30 p.m. at the Founders Park Community Center.