an aerial view of a street lined with houses
Key West’s Historic District includes all of Duval Street and several blocks surrounding the main thoroughfare. FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU/Contributed

Changes are afoot at city hall, which on May 2 hosted its last Tuesday evening city commission meeting — at least for the next six months. 

At the same meeting, Key West officials passed a resolution urging the state Legislature to defeat a pending bill that would eliminate local governments’ authority to preserve and protect historic buildings from demolition and redevelopment. The bill would apply to buildings located within a half-mile of a coastline — unless listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The City of Key West would be severely impacted by such legislation,” states the local resolution. “A substantial segment of buildings and structures, including nearly all of the ‘Old Town’ historic district, are located within a half-mile of a coastline; and the language of these proposed bills would grant developers authority to demolish almost every commercial and mixed-use structure in Key West, and replace them with structures of size and capacity that would effectively erase the historic charm and significance of the island.”

Currently, the National Register of Historic Places includes the “Key West Historic District, roughly bounded by Emma, Whitehead, White and South streets, Mallory Square and the Atlantic Ocean,” states the official list. But those boundaries do not include all historic buildings in Key West, and it is unclear whether the pending bill would apply to entire historic districts on the national register, or just individual buildings.

An amendment to the proposed bill exempts towns with fewer than 10,000 residents, which would protect St. Augustine’s buildings, but not Key West’s.

“Senate Bill 1346 and its House companion, House Bill 1317, sponsored by North Fort Myers Republican Rep. Spencer Roach are among nearly 60 bills filed this legislative session seeking to wrest more control of local regulatory oversight from counties and cities across Florida,” states an April 28 article in Florida Politics.

As for the city commission’s new meeting schedule…

City Manager Al Childress proposed, and officials approved, a new meeting schedule that replaces the twice-monthly Tuesday evening meetings, which often stretch late into the night, to a single monthly Thursday meeting while providing additional opportunities for public input during both daytime and evening hours.

As of June 8, the city commission will only meet on the second Thursday of each month, with a morning session starting at 9 a.m. and an evening session starting at 5 p.m. There will be no August meeting.

“Public comment would be allowed both in the morning session and the evening session. The morning session would include the consent agenda, presentations, discussion items and proclamations. The evening session would include ordinances and other public hearing items,” states the new schedule, which Childress has said is a six-month pilot program. “The mayor and city commission would have the ability to move any item from the morning session to the evening session for discussion.”

Upcoming meetings will take place June 8, July 13, Sept. 14, Oct. 12, Nov. 9 and Dec. 14.

The new schedule will also alleviate the former, frequent need to postpone, for some reason, Tuesday meetings to Wednesday any time a Monday holiday occurs.

Finally, Key West Police Chief Sean Brandenburg presented an overview of his department, which in 2022 responded to 133,464 calls for service. Calls for 2023 are projected to exceed 160,000, he said.

Brandenburg emphasized the importance of all police personnel, including dispatchers, bike patrol officers, traffic patrols, detectives, administrators, record keepers, evidence supervisors and the department’s ever-popular mounted patrols on horseback and K9 officers.

Mandy Miles
Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.