Middle Keys residents got a snapshot of what the future holds for Marathon City Council at Monday’s forum hosted by the Weekly and the Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce.
Luis Gonzalez, George Neugent, John Kissick and incumbent Mark Senmartin are running for two open seats in the nonpartisan, at-large election. Voters had the chance to hear where the candidates stand on issues like the visual appeal of Marathon, vacation rental laws and how best to spend city money.
Given the choice to sponsor their own resolution, Senmartin said he’d like to increase the transfer fee for Rate of Growth Ordinance units from $20,000 to $60,000. Gonzalez said he’d like to propose an ordinance governing taxicabs to increase safety; Kissick said he’d like to make changes to the building department so people can get permits easier; and Neugent said he’d like a sign ordinance in Marathon.
On the topic of architectural standards for the U.S. 1 corridor, all candidates except Gonzalez agreed there should be requirements adopted. “I do not,” Gonzalez said. “I feel everyone should be able to develop their properties how they please. We don’t want trashy-looking places, but we want them to be maintained.”
“It’s a complicated situation,” Neugent said about bringing commercial air service to Marathon’s airport, adding he has spoken with the county’s new director of airports about the issue. “The FAA regulations create situations to where the FAA is going to be reluctant to bring in certain commercial carriers, but we can bring in the smaller regional jets.”
Senmartin said he’s had meetings with smaller airlines, but air service in Marathon needs to come from the right carrier.
“I can wave a magic wand and hope to get them here,” Gonzalez said jokingly, while Kissick said he would encourage airlines to come to Marathon.
Given the opportunity to change Marathon’s vacation rental law (state law currently does not allow changes), Gonzalez said he’d like to see a managing agent enforce the rules. “The quality of life for our residents cannot continue to be jeopardized by lack of enforcement,” he said. Kissick agreed, and Senmartin said he’s been fighting for home rule in Tallahassee for years.
“There’s nothing we can do now,” Neugent said. “They’ve preempted us, and enforcement is the most important thing we can do with the rules we have in place.”
When asked separately what they can bring to the table, Kissick said he can listen to what people have to say and govern accordingly; “plus, I’m a good guy,” he said. Neugent said his relationships established over the years with Tallahassee and representatives at the state and federal level can be valuable to the city. Senmartin said in his fifth year on the council, he now knows “how the sausage is made.” Gonzalez said “I’m going to say I know how to change the recipe and make it work for the citizens of Marathon.”
Council to hear airport, jail updates
The Oct. 9 Marathon City Council meeting will feature updates on the Hurricane Irma-damaged jail in Marathon, future changes to the Marathon Airport runway, and a discussion about adding Middle Keys municipality representatives to the Baptist Health South Florida board. The council will also have a public hearing about Seaview Commons, a proposed 64-unit workforce housing project planned for Coco Plum. Developer Brian Schmitt is awaiting approval from the Florida Housing Finance Corp., as Seaview Commons is a tax credit project, before moving ahead with development. The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. at Marathon City Hall.