On March 31, the Monroe County Board of Commissioners met for a workshop meant as a refresher course for the three new commissioners and the public on the Rate of Growth Ordinance (ROGO), a.k.a., the rate at which the county can dispense building permits. But when county officials explained that an upcoming state hurricane evacuation model may result in the state giving the county more building permits, the hackles of commissioners were raised.

Commissioner Mike Forster interrupted the presentation to say, “I don’t want to put the perception out there that we’re looking for more ROGO allocations.” He said his fear is that the state is going to give out more ROGOs (a.k.a. building permits) rather than “put skin in the game” for takings lawsuits. 

Forster firmly stated that he doesn’t want any more allocations “because I live in gridlock every day.”

Other commissioners jumped in to agree with Forster, with Commissioner David Rice stating, “We all know we’re pretty well maxed out,” and citing the traffic fatality rate on Overseas Highway as an example.

Mayor Michelle Coldiron added that her “blood pressure was going up” at the thought of more ROGOs from the state, and told Forster she was glad that he stopped the presentation. 

“We’re not doing this workshop to find ways to get more ROGO allocations. … We need to find ways to purchase more properties to get them off of the books,” said Coldiron, emphasizing that the infrastructure is already strained. 

The comments came after Emily Schemper, senior director of planning and environmental resources for Monroe County, told the commissioners that the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity and the Department of Emergency Management will run an evacuation model after the compilation of the 2020 Census data, sometime in 2022-23. This model may result in more building permit allocations, or it may not.

Schemper also noted that a deficit of building permit allocations may trigger takings suits against the state, county and/or cities, if no additional permits are authorized based on the 2020 Census hurricane modeling. 

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“Takings suits” are when landowners sue because the state and local governments are gutting the value of their investment by preventing them from building on their vacant lot. County officials have estimated it will have 8,000 undeveloped lots when build-out, as dictated by the state, occurs, which is now scheduled for 2023.  

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