Back in February, Monroe’s County Board of County Commissioners learned about a $3.1 billion plan by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Named the “Coastal Storm Risk Management Feasibility Study,” it addresses strengthening the Keys’ infrastructure including roads, municipal facilities, commercial buildings and residences. The county asked the Corps to brief the cities on the plan for feedback. On June 9, the Marathon City Council expressed alarm at the part of the plan that calls for “mandatory acquisitions,” or forced buyouts.
The report to the council included a chart listing 84 buildings for mandatory acquisitions and 1,004 for elevation in Marathon. The addresses have not been provided to the city, although they are a matter of public record.
The problem, council agreed, is with the word “mandatory” and that the $3.1 billion plan is unfunded.
“I don’t care for the words ‘mandatory’ or ‘eminent domain,’” said Councilman Dan Zieg. “I am very much opposed to this.”
The plan’s preliminary $3.1 billion cost will be covered 65% by the federal government. Local governments will cover the remaining 35%.
Councilman John Bartus was skeptical about the likelihood that the federal match dollars for this program would ever “show up down here and I would be flabbergasted if we got every dollar up front.”
Councilman Mark Senmartin said he worried about real estate values of the yet unidentified properties.
“They will take a hit,” he said.
The Marathon City Council told staff to draft a letter to the county saying that if the word “mandatory” is not excised from the plan, the city would opt out of the program and instead support something called the “locally preferred plan.”
Monroe County Commissioner Michelle Coldiron suggested that the county opt to move the mandatory acquisitions into the home elevation portion of the program at the May meeting. However, the BOCC voted to delay until Keys municipalities could weigh in.
In other news:
- The City of Marathon advertised for an in-house attorney and received three complete applications, although others applied with incomplete applications.
- Planning for the Fourth of July festivities at Sombrero Beach are underway, with the understanding that modifications will be necessary if there is an uptick in COVID-19 cases.
- The city council approved a $50,000 purchase of surplus heavy equipment from Monroe County.
- Noe Martinez is the city’s new building official. He is a contract employee employed by M.T. Causley. Some council members expressed interest in interviewing him as an in-house building official. “It seems that Noe can get us over the hump with some of the issues we’ve encountered,” said Councilman Luis Gonzalez. “We have plans in the works for getting this position in-house.”
- Council approved changes to its Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Regulations to allow for construction heights of up to 43 feet to compensate for elevations in the new FEMA maps.
- Council approved changes to its Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Regulations to allow lots designated as “permanent RVs” to be changed to “transient residential units.” The latter are spaces that can be rented weekly or monthly, but cannot be sold as a transient unit, or a hotel building right.
- Bartus drafted a proclamation condemning racism and reaffirming Marathon’s commitment to fight for racial justice and human and civil rights for all. It was unanimously approved.