‘We’ll take em’’

County officials talk Scott’s 1,300 after approval Wednesday

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There’s a time for everything, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak.

As Monroe County officials attempt to mend the Keys’ affordable housing crisis, it was time Wednesday to speak to Gov. Rick Scott, his Cabinet and the Department of Economic Opportunity about 1,300 affordable housing permits announced in early May and now approved.

In the six weeks since the initiative was announced, county commissioners have given it a lukewarm reception while waiting for details. Marathon, Key West and Islamorada are all on board and representatives from each were in Tallahassee Wednesday for the Cabinet meeting.

“We are very thankful to the governor, Cabinet and DEO for listening to our request and working with us over the last year to make this happen,” said Marathon City Manager Chuck Lindsey referencing 300 requested by the city in November 2017. “In Marathon we have been committed to affordable housing for our residents and this initiative is only going to help.”

Upper and Lower Keys officials were equally enthusiastic.

“We’ll absolutely take 300 and we’ll start working with the DEO to make our comp plan amendments to accommodate these units, which will be deed-restricted workforce housing units with an evacuation restriction,” said Key West City Manager Jim Scholl.

Making amendments to comprehensive plans in each municipality is a lengthy process, but it’s necessary to acquire the units. Each municipality can apply for 300.

Those living in the future units will be required to evacuate within 48 hours of a major hurricane, like tourists and people in travel trailers.

“We’ve got to do the paperwork, but we are really looking forward to working on the details and getting more affordable housing in Key West,” Scholl said.

Islamorada Village Manager Seth Lawless said the initiative is positive and the village would like to accept 300 as well.

“We’ll take ’em,” he said.

Smaller municipalities like Key Colony Beach and Layton are allowed a combined 100 units.

County officials have not been instructed yet by the Board of County Commissioners on whether or not to pursue 300 units on behalf of unincorporated Monroe.

A June 6 letter from the county to the DEO listed concerns and questions, all of which have been discussed in public meetings.

“To be clear, the County Commission has not taken a vote regarding an official position on the governor’s proposal due to a number of questions and concerns,” the letter reads.

“This initiative is only going to help.”
—Chuck Lindsey

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