No new applications for residential market rate building permits will be accepted in Islamorada for the time being, as council members examine and seek possible changes to development within the village.
During a Nov. 9 meeting at Founders Park Community Center, council members voted 3-2 on the second reading of an ordinance to enact the moratorium for any new applications seeking a building permit. The moratorium also applies to applicants who wish to donate land to the village for more points and better hopes of reaching the top of the list for a permit.
Council’s approval of a moratorium doesn’t apply to commercial development, affordable housing, transfer of development rights applications or applications in the administrative relief pool, per attorney John Quick. The moratorium will span six months. Council members can terminate the moratorium or extend it if they need more time.
A total of 61 applications for market rate building permits are currently in the village’s system with no allocations left to hand out. Per a staff analysis, a moratorium is a temporary halt on the acceptance of new applications to allow the council to study, make decisions and change the comprehensive plan and land development regulations.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Jolin, who voted “no,” asked the council to consider adding a moratorium on affordable housing allocations and administrative relief. Rather than placing pressure on the village planning department to come up with quick solutions, she said it’s a “vehicle by which we could actually do some planning.” Jolin said it gives the village time to figure out a path forward for the 300 affordable housing units from the state, which faced a legal battle but ended when the state legislature approved to protect those allocations, plus 1,000 for other Keys municipalities, last session.
“We’re at such a critical time in how we move our village forward,” Jolin said.
Vice Mayor Sharon Mahoney didn’t believe the village should enact moratoriums as proposed by Jolin. Mahoney said it could take many months to revamp village codes, and she’d like to see a plan as to who’s going to do the rewrite.
“To stop everything without a plan is irresponsible,” Mahoney said.
Jolin said the village council could bring in outside professionals to help update the code instead of tasking a short-staffed planning department.
“It’s a standard in this industry. If we’re going to wait until the planning department is fully staffed, you’re right, nothing’s going to get done,” she said. “We need to do more.”
Councilman Henry Rosenthal, who voted “no,” said the village council should task the code rewrite to Jennifer DeBoisbriand, planning director, or someone else. Rosenthal said that DeBoisbriand wasn’t hired for the code rewrite, however.
Rosenthal went on to say the village had a person who was working on fixing the code, but he was dismissed. While he didn’t say his name, Rosenthal was alluding to Dan Gulizio, the former director of development services who was let go by then-manager Ted Yates in late May. Gulizio is suing the village and Yates for failure to pay severance and damages from his termination.
“Every time I bring up his name it goes nowhere. Maybe I have to change his name and you wouldn’t know who I was talking about,” Rosenthal said.
Councilman Mark Gregg acknowledged the council needs to conduct a strategic plan so the planning department has clear direction.
“They need instruction from us to tell them which direction we want to go in this. We have been unsuccessful doing that,” he said.