- A palm tree in front of a building - Skipjack Resort & Marina

There’s the power that runs through the electrical lines and the type of power that comes in numbers.

Although the start of the Marathon City Council meeting was delayed by an hour (a sailboat drifted into a tie-line at MM 74, resulting in a blackout on April 9), about two dozen residents milled around the City Hall lobby for a chance to address the council. They were there to speak about the proposal to convert hotel rooms into affordable housing, citywide.

Last week, the Marathon Weekly reported on Republic Investment’s idea to take 109 rooms at the Skipjack Resort and Marina and convert them to affordable housing. (Republic Investment owns 109 units at the resort, and 40 more are privately owned.) Two weeks ago, Barbara Mitchell of Mitchell Planning and Design and attorney Tom Wright pitched the council on proposed changes to the city’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Regulations that would allow for higher densities — 25 units per acre — in a Mixed Use Zone. To be clear, Skipjack Resort has not formally applied to the city for either affordable housing permits, or the planning commission for a development agreement or conditional use to make those changes on that exact property.

The mere idea was enough, however, to bring out Skipjack condo owners en masse. But the item had already been removed from the agenda.

Only three Skipjack condo owners made it to the podium to ask the council to dismiss the idea, before Wright, the attorney, took his turn. He objected.

“My client was told this matter would not be heard on April 9. We canceled travel plans,” Wright said when reached the following day. “But the council let there be input. From the standpoint of fairness to my client, especially the criticism being directed their way, it’s only right Republic Investment have a chance to respond.”

Condo owner Sarah Mundy urged the council to look elsewhere to solve the affordable housing issues. Lawrence McKenna said, “We had a meeting on March 23 at Skipjack and there was no mention of this. It’s disingenuous that we didn’t find out about it until (The Weekly published),” said Bruce Ferraro, owner of an investment property at Skipjack. “I am a big proponent of affordable housing, but I’m not sure the city should be involved in converting or repurposing hotel units. It’s not a very fair proposal … because the owners are left by the wayside. The sale price of our units would be greatly depressed.”

After Wright’s objection, the council canceled the rest of the public input regarding that specific matter. The council said it would be heard at the next meeting on May 14, because the April 23 session was canceled.

In other news:

  • Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay gave the council a check for $84,000 in unspent funds remaining of its contract to provide law enforcement for the City of Marathon, an annual occurrence in recent years. Ramsay told the council that crime is down 16.3% and thanked the council for the opportunity to serve. The council thanked him for his frugality and service.
  • The council did not formally adopt a city seal that has been trademarked by Councilman Mark Senmartin. City attorney David Migut advised the council that the U.S. conforms to the “first to use” versus the “first to register” method of determining trademark rights, adding the city has been using the seal for 19 years. Migut also said if the city were to formally adopt the seal, it would aid only in criminal prosecution of its misuse. “In terms of trademark, we have nothing to worry about. Whether to adopt it or not is a policy decision,” Migut said. Senmartin responded: “If the city refuses to adopt and protect the seal, then I will until we have a council that understands and wants to work together.”
  • The city staff announced it has FEMA’s promise for funding to build a retaining wall around Sombrero Beach to keep sand in place when another storm strikes. The public works department reported the contractor at the beach is moving quickly and could be done before the deadline.
  • The council approved a request to modify the commercial building proposed for the front of the Marriott Courtyard property to include a drive-through. The square footage of the building was dropped from 6,000 to 5,500 square feet. A representative from Marriott said it has not selected a tenant yet.

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