Anyone renting for less than six months must leave Key Colony Beach (KCB) by noon on Tuesday, March 23. The council of the small Middle Keys community met in an emergency session on March 21 to make the decision.

“It was a tough decision. We’re stressed. We can only handle our own residents right now,” said KCB mayor John DeNeale. “I’ve already gotten some hate mail, and that’s fine. I got it after Hurricane Irma, too.”

This does not affect persons who own a primary or secondary home within KBC. It also does not apply to rentals for transitory military personnel, health care workers, first responders and construction workers actively engaged in Keys projects.

KCB city manager Chris Moonis said, “The commission thought it was in the best interests of Key Colony Beach to move as many visitors and leisure nonresidents out of the community as soon as possible to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.”

The order applies to anyone who is renting for more than seven days and less than six months. This order is more stringent than the announcement on March 19 by Monroe County ordering all short term renters to leave the county by 6 p.m. today, March 22. KCB has the ability to write more restrictive rules than Monroe County, but not less restrictive. 

Moonis acknowledged this is a hard order for its older snowbirds, many who are dropped off by family members at the beginning of the season and then collected at the end. The city also acknowledged this may cause hardship for some who will not be able to comply immediately.

“Our police department will be handling this on a case-by-case basis,” Moonis said.

DeNeale said, “We want what’s best for our residents and our snowbirds. For some, that means being closer to where they can get better medical care.”

Sara Matthis thinks community journalism is important, but not serious; likes weird and wonderful children (she has two); and occasionally tortures herself with sprint-distance triathlons, but only if she has a good chance of beating her sister.