The Marathon City Council recognizes ports director Sean Cannon, left center, and recreation maintenance technician Martin “Hammer” Runyon, right center, for their 20 years of service to the city at the council’s Sept. 12 meeting. ALEX RICKERT/Keys Weekly

Work was not finished for the Marathon City Council following a lengthy discussion of proposed staff pay raises at its Sept. 12 meeting.

The evening’s other extensively debated item involved a conditional use permit for redevelopment of a triplex on South Anglers Drive as an 11-bedroom single family residence, with eventual transfer of the site’s two additional Transferable Building Rights (TBRs).

Attorney Patrick Stevens, whose home is across the street from the proposed development, spoke on behalf of the applicant, arguing that the property’s existing three building rights could theoretically be redeveloped as two or three separate six-bedroom units without the need for a conditional use permit.

“The conditionless approval was not what I thought was best,” he said. “On May 3, we held a meeting here in City Hall … and we invited all the neighbors. In doing so, the whole purpose was to gain input. 

“It is going to become 11 new bedrooms one way or another. So the question is, do we have a condition to allow the two TBRs to come off and the city gets $80,000 for affordable housing, and we have two less takings cases? I think that’s a win for the city.”

Other neighbors of the property acknowledged the property’s legal rights, but spoke against the proposed plan, questioning whether the property would be used to rent individual rooms regardless of conditions written into the proposed permit to prohibit this practice.

“We’ve seen this coming and coming, and we haven’t done a thing about it,” Anglers Drive resident Bill Simpson told the council. “When vacation rentals come into our property, they change, and they change drastically. You need to help us do something, because you’ve got us between a rock and a hard spot.”

“I hope we can learn from this moving forward, and you all up there that direct policy can work with (staff) on the Land Development Regulations and Comprehensive Plan so this doesn’t continue to happen,” said Chamber of Commerce CEO and neighborhood resident Daniel Samess. “I question 11 bedrooms, and I’ve spoken with a number of vacation rental managers. … They all chuckled that ‘I would never want an 11-bedroom house.’”

“An 11-bedroom vacation rental is simply not wanted in our community,” said councilman Jeff Smith. “This is trying to maximize something that just doesn’t work. … Economics will help protect what goes in that neighborhood.

“This is another area where we can incentivize the preservation of workforce housing, because it’s just too cheap to move (TBRs) around and take three workforce units out of our community.”

In a motion led by Smith, the council voted unanimously to deny the permit due to failing to fit the community’s character. It directed city staff to explore changes to the city’s LDRs to address future similar scenarios.

KCB Fire Service Sees Significant Price Hike

With significant pay increases for Marathon’s fire and EMS workers following union negotiations, the council unanimously agreed to an increase for the price of Key Colony Beach’s agreement with Marathon for provision of fire and EMS services. Left unchanged for years at a price of $550,000, Finance Director Jennifer Johnson told the council that the KCB’s operating contribution was roughly $750,000 in fiscal year 2023, with the share rising to a projected $990,000 for 2024. Citing a desire to avoid “sticker shock” while balancing a need for Key Colony to pay “its fair share” of costs, the council agreed to an increased rate of $700,000 per year, with an annual review and potential adjustment over the next three years.

In Other News:

  • A memorial garden is set for installation at Marathon’s Rotary Park in memory of 13-year-old Ben Segard, who was instrumental in the park’s construction. Details for a dedication ceremony will be announced when available.
  • The council honored two of Marathon’s longest-tenured employees in ports director Sean Cannon and recreation maintenance technician Martin “Hammer” Runyon, each a 20-year veteran for a city that incorporated just four years before their employment.
  • Now known as an annual community clean-up day supported by the city of Marathon, the third Landry Sayer Clean the Curb day is set for Saturday, Sept. 23 at 8 a.m. beginning at Coco Plum Beach.
  • The council is expected to review an official resolution at its Sept. 21 meeting opposing the statewide consolidation of judicial circuits. The currently proposed consolidation would combine the 16th and 11th circuits, blending the Keys’ court system with that of Miami-Dade. “Our local representation would be diminished greatly,” City Attorney Steve Williams told the council, outlining the Keys’ potential struggle to compete with more severe  criminal cases in Miami as issues like resource violations would struggle to earn serious attention. “We would have virtually no authority. Your voting rights for judge would be completely washed out by the Miami-Dade voting block. … The short version is, we would lose local autonomy.”
  • Following an Aug. 31 meeting between city officials and members of the Florida Keys Contractors Association, City Manager George Garrett announced a commitment to meet with local contractors on a monthly basis to resolve permitting software issues. Contractors Association President Armand Messina called the August meeting “very positive,” praising the response time from city staff as “several contractors that had their issues are getting resolved.”
  • With a unanimous vote, the council finished its dissolution of the city’s code board in favor of using a special magistrate to decide all future code cases. The code board may be brought back in the future through a majority vote from the council.
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.