The school district has talked for 20 years about building workforce housing at its waterfront headquarters in Key West. They’ve created and then disbanded a task force to study the matter. They’ve built a new facility on Stock Island to house the school buses and offices that were formerly located at Trumbo. They’ve decided repeatedly that they need to ask the city for a zoning change to allow up to 40 units per acre.

Now they’re getting serious.

The school district on June 8 hosted a discussion and tour of the Trumbo Road property, including officials from the City of Key West, the sheriff’s office, the Navy and the housing authority, which owns the adjacent and newly renamed Lang Milian public housing complex.

The various entities have largely agreed to work together to develop housing at Trumbo Road, and they want to maintain the momentum prompted by Tuesday’s discussion.

Many of the same issues were raised: zoning, density, height restrictions, flood plain elevations, deed restrictions and pricing.

“We’re ready to go forward; it’s been a long time,” school board chairman John Dick told the Tuesday group that also included developer Ed Swift, City Attorney Shawn Smith, housing authority spokesman Peter Batty, Sheriff Rick Ramsay, Mayor Teri Johnston and all city commissioners. 

School district, city of Key West, sheriff’s office, navy and housing authority officials on June 8 tour the school district’s headquarters on Trumbo Road, where workforce housing has been planned for nearly two decades. ALYSON CREAN/City of Key West

“This is my seventh year on the board,” school board member Bobby Highsmith said. “In my first year, I met with Ed Swift, who had a binder on this property that dated back to 2003. The school district has taken a big step in moving the school buses and several staff members to the new Stock Island facility. I think our board is serious about this and I hope our community partners will support us as well.”

Swift told the group of about 30 people, “I just hope to see this built before I die.”

Smith added, “Moving the school buses from here was a gigantic first step. Now there has to be a next step. I think the zoning change to allow 40 units per acre and a height of 40 feet is crucial.”

The parcel in red shows the school district’s Trumbo Road property, where officials continue to discuss building workforce housing. CONTRIBUTED

Smith suggested that the school board consider a referendum to get voter approval for those changes. Task force member Bryan Green also strongly suggested that the school board decide quickly how many units it will need for teachers, because the city will have to set aside building permit allocations for the affordable housing development.

The group collectively agreed to capitalize on the renewed momentum and make something happen.


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Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.