By 10 p.m., only one member of the public was still on the phone waiting to comment on an item before the Marathon City Council. Although the meeting was broadcast on YouTube, citizens had to be connected via Zoom or on the telephone to make a comment. Repeatedly, the council and public “listened” to dead air as citizens attempted to speak. Often, a name was called and, after a 30-second delay with no response, the next speaker was called.
“We’ll circle back,” said Mayor Steve Cook more than once.
“Press star 6 to unmute yourself,” said Gaelan P. Jones more than once.
At one point, Planning Director George Garrett used his cellphone to call a citizen from the Coco Plum neighborhood and then held the device up to the camera and microphone on his own computer.
Until 9 p.m., the meeting moved slowly as it considered two projects, hearing from staff and developers. The conditional use and development agreement for Seaview Commons II on Coco Plum passed its second reading, as did a project slated for the lot between 101st and 104th Streets called La Palma, which is a combination of housing and commercial space.
The Marathon City Council also voted to hire Steve Williams as the new in-house attorney. Most recently, Williams was employed by Monroe County as assistant county attorney. He has lived in Marathon for 20 years and is familiar with Area of Critical Concern regulations.
He is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and received his law degree from Samford University in Alabama.
“I want to thank the Marathon City Council for the exciting opportunity to join the city and work with them,” Williams said. “Also, I want to extend sincere heartfelt gratitude to Monroe County and the county attorney’s office; it has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with such great attorneys and staff for so long.”
Williams and the council still must come to terms on a salary and benefits package.
The council and staff also discussed the difficulty of enforcing COVID-19 rules. In some cases, the city does not have the authority to ticket an offender; for example, a restaurant’s 50% capacity rule falls under the control of the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation whose nearest officers are located in Miami. Staff said they are awaiting physical ticket books and information on how the City of Key West intends to treat offenders.
Finally, the city approved projects for more hotel rooms in Marathon. Isla Bella Beach Resort on Knights Key sought and received approval to proceed on a plan to add 96 hotel rooms. And Crystal Cove received approval to add 16 hotel rooms or cottages to a project in midtown Marathon on the gulfside, close to 50th Street, for a project renamed Latitude 24.
Both of those developments must purchase hotel room building rights in order to proceed. The most common method would be to purchase existing transient rentals, and simultaneously “retire” the nightly rental on the original room and “move” the building right to the new development. Because the Keys are an Area of Critical Concern, the state no longer grants new hotel room building rights in the Keys, with the exception of 100 allotted to Marathon by then-Gov. Rick Scott when he took office in 2011.