As its final act before dissolution, the nonprofit Friends of Old Seven gave the City of Marathon $18,000 to be used for improvements to the park at the east end of the Seven Mile Bridge. ALEX RICKERT/Keys Weekly

In a surprisingly short meeting lasting barely an hour and a half, several of the most impactful items for Marathon citizens consumed mere minutes of discussion or were added to the consent agenda.

Perhaps most consequential was the approval of a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the city and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) specifying which development orders must be rendered to the state by the city, hopefully shortening wait times for less significant building permits.

The new memorandum became a necessity following the state’s revocation of the previous 17-year MOU. On Feb. 25, the DEO issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) concerning a development at the end of 39th Street in Marathon, commonly known as the Boatworks project. 

Though the Boatworks project had obtained a conditional use permit for the site, the state appealed a revision to the development agreement that allowed previous live-aboard units to become upland residential units when determining the number of market rate units allowed.

DEO then contended that the city’s decision to issue building permits for four units in the project during the pending appeal violated the appeals process. 

Received by the city on Friday, April 8, the newly drafted memorandum serves as a response to the city’s draft sent to Tallahassee almost exactly one month earlier. While the new document provides redundancy and outlines several practices already provided for by the city’s code, the language is more specific than in the previous MOU and names several types of development orders not specifically mentioned in prior iterations. 

Added language specifically mentions: subdivisions and plats of existing parcels; authorization of accessory uses including swimming pools, tiki huts and caretaker cottages; any development activity that provides temporary or permanent transient residential uses; and any development order recommended for denial by the Local Planning Commission that is subsequently approved by the City Commission.

Where the previous MOU required conditional use permits to be rendered to the state, but not their subsequent building permits, the new agreement requires all subsequent permits, plats and approvals to be sent to the DEO.

The new draft also contains language specifically clarifying that “no development order issued by the City shall take effect or be acted upon by any developer until the City’s appeal period has expired” and “for all development orders rendered to the Department … no development order shall take effect or be acted upon by the developer unless the Department’s 45-day review period has expired or the Department has waived its right to appeal, or until the conclusion of any administrative appeal brought by the Department.”

After lively discussion of the topic in March’s city council meeting, public works director Carlos Solis also announced that the City of Marathon has secured just over $1 million in federal funding to immediately replace the Coco Plum Drive bridge. 

The money is a product of the American Rescue Plan of 2021 , which allows for funds to be used as revenue replacement for government services affected by the COVID-19 pandemic – including investments in infrastructure.

The support structure of the bridge is in good condition, according to recent appraisals, but the $1 million will be put toward the replacement of the bridge’s decking.

“The good news is that we have already started the process,” said Solis. “Our consultants are already under contract.”

In other news:

  • With its mission now complete upon the opening of the renovated Old Seven Mile Bridge, the nonprofit organization Friends of Old Seven presented an $18,000 check to the City of Marathon prior to its dissolution. The check, representing the organization’s last remaining funds, will be earmarked for improvements to Sunset Park at the base of the bridge’s east end, including a future restroom facility.

“We believe we have accomplished our mission,” said Bernard Spinrad, board president 

of the organization. “I want to express to you the level of satisfaction I’ve had for close to 

10 years.”

  • The council discussed a possible change to the city’s First Time Homebuyer Assistance Program. Concerns largely revolved around a potential increase of the loan amount from $10,000 to $20,000 for home purchases of $525,000 or more, as well as language specifying that applicants must have 70% of their income derived in Monroe County. The council heard input from Brian Tewes of Tewes Mortgage and Realtor Josh Mothner concerning income requirements, the purchase threshold for applicants to qualify for the increased loan, and the potential for the loan increase to result in loan-to-value ratios of more than 100%. Following this discussion, the council instructed planning director Brian Shea to move forward with the drafting of a new ordinance for approval at a future council meeting.
  • In response to severe congestion and numerous parking-related incidents on private properties adjacent to Sombrero Beach, the council discussed a future resolution identifying areas of Sombrero Beach Road and surrounding neighborhood road right-of-ways as no-parking or potential tow-away zones.
  • The council unanimously approved a pay increase for City Attorney Steve Williams in order to bring his salary closer in line with other municipal attorneys in Monroe County.
  • The council granted final approval to adjust the zoning and Future Land Use Map (FLUM) of a property at 765 107th Street to Mixed Use and Mixed Use Commercial, respectively. At its first public hearing, the council also approved a zoning and FLUM change to Mixed Use and Mixed Use-Commercial, respectively, for a parcel near U.S. 1 between 69th and 70th Street Ocean.

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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.