MARATHON CITY COUNCIL SET TO RESUME TALKS ON BUILDING PERMITS, FEES & GRANTS

Repeated discussions from the Marathon City Council’s final meeting of 2022 are set to once again headline the council’s first meeting of 2023, scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 10 at 5:30 p.m. at Marathon City Hall.

Members will discuss for a second time a potential reduction in fees for the Building Permit Allocation System. Raised by councilman Jeff Smith in December, the potential reduction could be made in an effort to aid local residents currently waiting for permits who are unable to secure higher priority in the system by spending money to increase their scores. The council last month asked city staff to bring data to substantiate the city’s current fees to better inform the discussion.

Vice Mayor Robyn Still will lead a renewed discussion of the city’s desire to provide grant funding to local nonprofits on a yearly basis. Discontinued after Hurricane Irma, the city’s prior program awarded $90,000 per year raised from ad valorem taxes. With some council members expressing concern around the city’s decision to donate taxpayer dollars to specific causes and asking to better understand Monroe County’s procedures for similar awards, the item was tabled at December’s meeting.

Also tabled from the same meeting was a discussion of temporary building permit fee reductions in Marathon for a period of 12 to 18 months. City staff told the council in December that revenues collected from fees involved with large projects around the city – especially Grassy Key’s upcoming Valhalla Resort – would allow for such a reduction and prevent the city’s building department from showing an impermissible profit. Council members briefly debated if, and to what extent, the reduction could work retroactively before postponing any official action.

The council will also consider two conditional use permits approved at a Dec. 19 planning commission meeting. The first, a proposed five-home development dubbed “Shipman Point” behind the newly-completed Crystal Cove apartments between 47th and 50th Street Gulf, drew concerns from several commissioners over upkeep of the private road that would be required to access the new development, a seemingly small turn-around area for waste management and fire rescue vehicles, and continued issuance of conditional use permits with severely limited remaining building allocations. 

Others contended that allowing the large property to be divided and developed with five single-family homes was the “lesser of two evils” and would prevent a potential larger condominium or apartment complex from creating even more congestion and access issues in the area. The development was eventually unanimously recommended for approval.

A second development, named “Caroline’s on the Water” in initial plans, would include a restaurant or bar, limited boat dockage, retail space, a small office space and 10 affordable housing units behind the current Gulfside Village plaza. 

The commission voted 3-1 to recommend approval of the project with a condition that rents in the affordable housing units should follow formulas outlined in the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program. The development will also be required to construct an opaque barrier between itself and the adjacent Crane Point Museum and Nature Center property. Planning commission chair Matt Sexton, who advocated for tighter restrictions to provide lower rents in the affordable units, was the lone nay vote.

Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.