A rendition showing a new playground and swings at Library Beach Park in Islamorada. CONTRIBUTED

Islamorada residents can voice their opinions on several proposed changes to the village’s planning code during a May 4 workshop at Founders Park Community Center.

A special meeting to discuss 11 code changes brought forth by Dan Gulizio, village director of planning and development, was put on hold by the dais last month after council members learned that the public wouldn’t have three minutes to voice their comments on each proposal. Vice Mayor Sharon Mahoney called for another workshop to give residents affected by the changes time to have a say and ask questions.

In addition to the workshop, residents will have an opportunity to speak on the proposals once they reach the dais for a first and second reading at future meetings. Village Manager Ted Yates told council members at the April 11 workshop that some of the proposals were publicly introduced multiple times at the village’s Local Planning Agency meeting, which provides recommendations to the council on planning matters. 

Changes to the village’s planning code, which deal with food trucks, alcohol permits and variances to name a few, came to the council after a presentation by Gulizio last August that highlighted inconsistencies and gaps in current regulations. Gulizio told the dais the initial changes coming before the council for approval would be “housekeeping” items. 

At an April 13 meeting, the dais agreed to move several less controversial code fixes ahead to a first reading at a future meeting. No vote is expected on the proposed code changes at the May 4 regular meeting, which follows the workshop at 5:30 p.m. at Founders Park Community Center. 

During the meeting, council members will consider approval of a project agreement to install a new playground at Library Beach Park, located behind the Islamorada library at 84 Johnston Road. Last April, the village applied for funding through the Monroe County Tourist Development Council (TDC) in order to replace a deteriorating playground. The TDC granted the village $246,960 for new playground equipment. According to a staff report, the project wouldn’t exceed $481,305. If approved, the village would fund the other half of the project, roughly $234,345, through local government discretionary sales surtax. 

Village officials issued a request for proposals for the playground project last January, which followed with an evaluation committee recommending the Fort Myers-based Playmore West Inc. The committee picked a design that includes more inclusive playground features, with swings, slides, climbers, benches and games like tic-tac-toe. 

Council members will also consider a resolution to approve a work authorization for ongoing improvements at Green Turtle Hammock Preserve. Design and permitting are nearing completion for improvements, which include an ADA-compliant kayak launch, dock, access to the waterfront, restroom, parking and observation tower. A request for proposals for project construction is expected this month. The resolution seeks approval of construction engineering and inspection services by CPH Inc., at a cost not to exceed $45,135. The village is using $325,000 from the village’s capital project fund for the project. 

Resurfacing the Founders Park tennis courts, bringing on All Aspects Inspection Services for building support and fire apparatus maintenance and repair services are also on the dais’ docket. Discussions are also scheduled over moving wastewater operations to the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority by Mayor Buddy Pinder. Councilwoman Elizabeth Jolin will bring forward discussions on the manager’s evaluation and a council training session. The village manager will discuss a committee to evaluate solid waste service proposals.

Jim McCarthy is one of the many Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 4-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, hockey, mixed martial arts and golf. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.