Public: ‘No’ to affordable housing planned for Port Largo

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Public: ‘No’ to affordable housing planned for Port Largo - A close up of a map - Florida Keys
The BOCC is applying for a grant to buy this parcel and develop five, 3-bedroom affordable housing units, adjacent to the Key Largo Community Park. GOOGLE/Contributed

There are a few members of the public who don’t want to build affordable housing. Not even five units, not even on undeveloped property located next to the Key Largo Community Park. But on July 17, the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners prevailed, and voted to approve going ahead with a grant request.

“All of us who live next to an empty lot feel a cloud hanging over our head. We fear what may go there one day. Affordable housing or non-affordable housing, our preference is that nothing change,” said Councilman David Rice. “I recognize that human condition. I feel the same way. But we have a need, and affordable housing is our number one priority.”

The commission also approved the $1,500 application fee for the proposal to be submitted by Tuesday, Aug. 6. The land would be leased to the Monroe County Land Authority that would serve as both the developer and the operator of the affordable housing if the grant is approved.

The vote was unanimous to submit two proposals to the Florida Housing Finance Corporation — up to $2 million for land acquisition, and up to $8 million for affordable housing construction of 25 units spread over three parcels in the Keys, including the one in Key Largo.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recent announcement of $35 million set aside for the Keys to build affordable or workforce housing in the Key, is part of the Community Development Block Grant, Disaster Recovery Grant Program funded by the federal government. The county proposes to build five 3-bedroom units on the Key Largo site; eight 1-bedroom and two 2-bedroom units on Conch Key; and 10 1-bedroom units at Howard’s Haven on Big Pine Key. The sites on Conch Key and Howard Haven are currently trailer parks. If the grant is approved, the Monroe County Housing

Usually, the Florida Housing Finance Corporation acts like a bank by giving out loans. This program, using the CBDG-DRG grant, will be “forgiven” after 20 years.

The Key Largo site, located along Atlantic Boulevard, is currently zoned for 18 affordable housing units, but speakers at the July 17 meeting would rather have more parking or more park amenities.

“I feel like I’ve been sucker punched,” said Key Largo resident Marlen Weeks, who said she was surprised the site was proposed for affordable housing. “I’m not against affordable housing, but I don’t feel like you’ve been transparent. Once you make this decision, we’re stuck with it.”

County staff told the commissioners that chance to comment on the development of affordable housing would come after the grant is approved. However this particular piece of property, which is already properly zoned, wouldn’t trigger a traffic analysis.

Nancy Bean, an Upper Keys resident and spokesperson for a homeowners association, said, “We want to firmly state that we are totally against anything done in that area without community involvement.”

In other news:

  • The county’s lease on the former Big Pine Road Prison for hurricane debris storage is set to expire. The College of the Florida Keys has expressed an interest in developing the site, according to college spokesman Frank Wood. He said that, according to state law, the college could be first in-line for the state-owned property. He said the FKCC is developing plans that could entail a sporting complex, motor vehicle tactical training, a sheriff substation, room for community meetings. “Our goal is to start the discussion with stakeholders,” he said.

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