a sign for key haven estate with palm trees

Should the areas of Key Haven and Stock Island be made part of the city of Key West? 

The question has been often asked for the past 20-some years, but never definitively answered.

The city’s comprehensive plan, which guides and regulates development in the city, “specifies that by 2017, the city was supposed to prepare an annexation study for Key Haven and by 2020 was supposed to prepare a study for the south side of Stock Island,” assistant city attorney Larry Erskine told the Key West Planning Board in February.

The north side of Stock Island, which includes College Road, the hospital and golf course, is already part of Key West. Those residents and entities pay city taxes and can vote in city elections. Stock Island on the other side of U.S. 1, as well as Key Haven, are part of unincorporated Monroe County.

But that could change if studies show that annexation would be beneficial.

“There shouldn’t be any agenda here; this should be done totally objectively,” Ed Russo, an appointed member of the Key West Planning Board, said at the February meeting, where he raised the topic of the overdue annexation studies. “We’ll need to study the impacts on housing, taxes, voting districts and more. There’s a whole bunch of things that will have to be considered and it’s going to take a while to figure it all out. But at least then we can look back on it and say we addressed the question objectively and with knowledge of all the factors.”

The planning board in February voted unanimously to urge the city commission to “initiate an annexation study for portions of Key Haven and Stock Island,” states the Feb. 15 planning board agenda.

“I’ve been trying to do this for more than 20 years,” city commissioner Jimmy Weekley told the Keys Weekly on April 2, adding that he absolutely would be in favor of getting the studies done.

Many Key West business owners and managers live in Key Haven, which is not part of the city, and thus cannot vote in city elections. MANDY MILES/Keys Weekly

Planning board chair Sam Holland is also in favor of the studies.

“Seven out of 10 homes in Key West these days are owned by people who don’t live anywhere near Key West,” Holland said. “Meanwhile, there are so many local business owners, general managers and people with major stakes in what happens in Key West living in Key Haven, but they can’t vote in city elections.”

When there was a vacancy on the planning board last year, Holland had proposed changing the criteria to allow appointees from Key Haven and even up to Big Coppitt to serve on the planning board. 

“The HARC board allows it,” Holland said. “The Bight board allows appointees all the way up to Big Pine, and yet the planning board members have to reside in the city limits. But my proposal got blown out of the water last year.”

The planning board’s vote to encourage the annexation studies will now make its way to the city commission, which has the authority to initiate such studies and hire a firm to complete them.

Mandy Miles
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.