Monroe County senior permitting coordinator Michaela Manning, pictured holding her plaque, receives the Employee of the Year Award at the Board of County Commissioners’ Jan. 18 meeting. ALEX RICKERT/Keys Weekly

A highly controversial item slated for discussion at the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners’ first meeting of 2023 was almost immediately pushed to a May vote when the board convened, paving the way for positive updates from city staff in an otherwise quiet Jan. 18 agenda.

The board was initially scheduled to hear an ordinance creating a Stock Island Workforce Subarea for the development of around 240 deed-restricted affordable housing units at the site of the current Roy’s Trailer Park.

Park residents received a notice in May 2022 that the property would be developed into workforce housing apartments and that current Roy’s tenants would have first right of refusal for units at the nearby Wreckers Cay apartment complex – if they were willing to continue paying their rents until they moved and either remove their existing trailers or sign them over to park owners.

Citing years of litigation with the county over unauthorized additions to mobile homes and “serious fire and life safety conditions,” the notice read, “it has become evident that sustaining the property as a mobile home park is no longer possible.” 

A large group of tenants in the park’s 108 trailers submitted a written objection to the proposed zoning amendment and redevelopment on Dec. 9, stating that their leases did not expire until the end of 2037. In a separate suit filed against the park owners in August, they also said the evictions violate the Florida Mobile Home Act, which states that removal or relocation of mobile home owners may only happen by “determining that adequate mobile home parks or other suitable facilities exist for the relocation of the mobile home owners.”

With numerous requests to read the item at a Key West county commission meeting, commissioner David Rice moved to push the hearing to the board’s May agenda. Seconding the motion, commissioner Michelle Lincoln added that the four-month delay would allow a clearer picture of the affordable housing landscape in the county after the Florida legislature’s 2023 session.

Monroe County planning commission supervisor Ilze Aguila, pictured holding her plaque, receives the Employee of the Quarter award for the fourth quarter of 2022 at the Board of County Commissioners’ Jan. 18 meeting. ALEX RICKERT/Keys Weekly

In Other News:

  • With the impending March retirement of longtime administrator and health officer Bob Eadie, the commission unanimously approved a resolution supporting the appointment of current assistant county health administrator Carla Fry to assume the vacated post.

“Thank you for your leadership and your steady hand through the most difficult and stressful times of everybody’s life here,” Mayor Craig Cates told Eadie.

“You were the voice of comfort for all the years through COVID,” added Lincoln. “Every time I heard your voice, I knew that we were in good hands.”

  • Monroe County Land Authority executive director Christine Hurley delivered an update on the land authority’s purchases of conservation land and ongoing affordable housing projects. Since its inception, the program has spent around $47 million to dedicate nearly nearly 4,000 acres as conservation land within the county, and north of $50 million to assist the development of more than 1,300 affordable units. This includes four county-owned parcels to be developed as affordable county employee housing in the coming year, along with other scattered parcels throughout the county to be developed in partnership with organizations like Habitat for Humanity.
  • Assistant county administrator Kevin Wilson provided an outline for tenant guidelines in soon-to-be-developed properties in the Monroe County Employee Housing Rental Program, some of which are deed-restricted as affordable units. 

At the direction of the commission, all employees may apply for unrestricted units, but deed-restricted affordable housing units will be rented to county employees making less than the area median income – defined in 2022 as $71,800 for a one-person household or a combined $109,333 for a married couple or domestic partners. Rents will be calculated based on 22.5% of the combined household income. Tenants may have roommates who are not county employees, but at least one person in the unit must be employed by the county at all times. Employees with ownership interests in other properties are ineligible for the program.

  • A resolution by Cates calling on the federal government to provide resources to assist the Keys’ recent migrant influx was unanimously approved.
  • County Attorney Bob Shillinger announced the Florida Supreme Court has denied the City of Marathon and Village of Islamorada’s petition to retain affordable housing allocations revoked in an Aug. 3 opinion by Miami’s Third District Court of Appeals. Both governments will now look to pursue a legislative fix to the statutes controlling the allocations. If successful, the same fix could allow the county to retain its own 300 units bestowed in 2018 at the request of then-Gov. Rick Scott.
The Monroe County Fleet Management Department is recognized at the Board of County Commissioners’ Jan. 18 meeting for receiving three Blue Seal of Excellence certifications from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Monroe County’s fleet management team has 15 technicians holding a total of 122 ASE certifications. ALEX RICKERT/Keys Weekly
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.