ISLAMORADA COUNCIL APPROVES DWINDLING SUPPLY OF BUILDING PERMITS

Mayor Pete Bacheler runs the Nov. 17 meeting, which marked the end of his two-year term. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

An outgoing Islamorada council approved a schedule to hand out the village’s remaining building permits at a Nov. 17 meeting. A new council seated in December will face the tough task of figuring out what comes next with no more permits available despite many still waiting to build on their vacant lots. 

The meeting, with 17 agenda items up for consideration, was the last one for Councilman David Webb and Mayor Pete Bacheler. Both were elected to the council in 2020 when five seats were up for grabs. 

“The village spoke and Pete and I were not part of that phrase,” Webb said. “But I’m very pleased with the selections that were made ultimately and more pleased with some that were not. I think the village and staff will be in good hands going forward.”

Webb encouraged the incumbents reelected to the dais to ensure they incorporate newly-elected councilwomen Elizabeth Jolin and Sharon Mahoney as rapidly as possible. 

“They’re both going to be drinking from a firehose. I think they both realize that. Just make sure they don’t get left out,” he said. 

Webb also shared words of praise for Jolin, a person he described as committed, objective and smart. 

Bacheler praised the work and camaraderie of his fellow council members the past two years. He previously served on the Local Planning Agency before his election victory in 2020. He was vice mayor before becoming mayor the past year. 

“This is a hell of a town. And I like and love the village of Islamorada. I think you guys will serve it well and I think you will help the two new people serve it well. I wasn’t pleased with the election, but I’m very pleased to have been here and very pleased to have seen people in the audience. I’d like to think more people will participate because that’s what it is all about.”

Current councilmen Buddy Pinder, Mark Gregg and Henry Rosenthal will return for another two-year term. Rosenthal is in line to become the next mayor after previously serving as vice mayor. The council selects the mayor and vice mayor posts at the first meeting, which is set for Tuesday, Dec. 6 at Founders Park Community Center. 

Before closing of the final meeting, the council approved six requests by applicants seeking administrative relief in order to construct single-family homes on their vacant lots. All applications were in the building permit allocation system, or BPAS, but they failed to receive a permit. Applications were considered and turned down for a permit during the last four allocation periods. 

A village staff analysis states that all applications wouldn’t receive an allocation before the program ends in 2023. Properties approved for administrative relief are located at 36 Park Road, 137 Indian Mound Trail, 161 Mohawk St., 60 Wrenn St., 80 Wrenn St. and 206 Harbor Drive. 

Council members also approved market rate building permit allocations for five applications without a land dedication. The applications are ranked ninth through 13th in a list of 80 waiting for a building permit. Applicants receiving permits were Donna and Daniel Fischer, Ello 213 Holdings LLC, Stephan and Marilyn Hayes, Island Elixir LLC and Julio Colomba. A total of 22 market rate residential allocations were made available for 2022, including five market rate building permits without land dedication. 

A distribution schedule for remaining building permits was unanimously approved by the dais. Village code requires the council to establish the total amount of nonresidential floor area and residential dwelling units that may be made available for the next annual BPAS allocation. Eleven market rate allocations are available for 2023. Of those, nine allocations will be handed out to applications without a land dedication. And two will be given to applicants with a land dedication. 

Rosenthal expressed that he’d like to extend the remaining allocations to 2026, but his colleagues were against the idea. 

“I’m certainly not against people in BPAS. I understand their problem. But how do we avoid 2023? The only way we can do that is to extend the permits for that length of time. That’s the only way,” Rosenthal said. 

Funding through the Florida Keys Stewardship Act for a backfill restoration project at Canal 116 on Plantation Key was unanimously approved by the dais. The project seeks to improve the canal’s water quality by raising its bottom by 6 feet below mean sea level to allow for tidal flow. Staff is seeking Stewardship Act funds totaling $1,759,627.10 to cover project costs.

Jim McCarthy is a Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 3-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, mixed martial arts and golf. He loves to hit the links and play some softball with his Make A Play team. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.