Joseph Corradino, interim director of planning, listens during public comment. GABRIEL SANCHEZ/Keys Weekly

Islamorada’s village council voted 4-1 to add a referendum vote onto November’s ballot, allowing residents to decide if council members will serve four-year staggered terms starting in 2020.

Before the council voted, Islamorada resident John Hernandez urged them to reconsider.

Hernandez argued that two-year terms encourage more individuals to run for council and reminded everyone that previous attempts to return to four-year terms had failed. In mentioning why the change to two-year terms was necessary, Hernandez brought up the “Gang of Three,” referring to former councilmen who tended to vote in a block.

“They controlled the council. Things that the other two, and the majority of the community, didn’t want, occurred,” he said. “I urge the citizens to vote against changing the charter.”

The council also tabled a vote to close access points to U.S.1 from Palm Avenue and Beach Road on Upper Matecumbe. The vote was postponed after Councilman Jim Mooney raised the issue of notifying adjacent neighborhoods of the proposed changes.

The proposed closures were recommendations made to the village in the parking master plan analysis it conducted. The closing of both access points would allow for 18 more parking spots to be built alongside Old Highway.

“I think we have to have input from the community,” said Mooney.

Islamorada’s Director of public works, AJ Englemeyer, said notice, including dates and times of upcoming hearings on the issue, will be posted on information boards in the neighborhoods. 

Councilwoman Deb Gillis briefed the council on the governor’s cabinet meeting on areas of critical concern annual report and discussions surrounding 1,300 building permits Gov. Rick Scott has offered Monroe County and its municipalities. Islamorada would receive 300.

Scott directed the Department of Equal Opportunity to continue working with the county and its municipalities to determine the best way to administer the proposed housing program, said Gillis. 

“Many details we don’t know yet,” she said. “It’s going to take some time to do it. What we know today may not be what we know in six months.”

Interim planning director Joseph Corradino updated the council on the department’s efforts to streamline the processing of some permits and trim regulations. Seventeen items have been identified so far. Corradino said the department is trying to lower time and process while also identifying any unintended consequences.

“As we go through the analysis we are trying to strike a middle ground between regulations and quality of life,” said Corradino. “Every day wasted in the permitting process is wasted money.”

Also during the meeting, the village staff was directed to prepare a comprehensive ordinance banning distribution of or outright prohibiting single-use plastics.

Nearshore Water Regulations advisory committee Chair Bob Mitchell briefed the council on the committee’s discussions. National Parks Conservation Association’s Cara Capp spoke about southern Everglades restoration projects. The local planning agency did not update the council at the meeting.

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