August 9, 2017

ISLAMORADA — With just one minor addition, the Village Council at its meeting last week approved a rule allowing smaller setbacks and buffer yards for affordable housing projects. Councilwoman Cheryl Meads pleaded with her colleagues that the rule require fencing under certain conditions.

The ordinance passed 3-1, with Councilwoman Deb Gillis as the lone dissenter. Vice Mayor Chris Sante recused himself due to his work building affordable housing in the Upper Keys.

Gillis voted against it mostly because she opposed the fence requirement.

“I don’t see the need of making them put one up,” Gillis told the board.

As written, the ordinance allows up to 15 deed-restricted affordable housing units, from the current 12, to be placed on an acre of land with no increased setbacks or buffer yards. In relation, Monroe County allows up to 18 on an acre, with one exception being urban commercial zoning which allows up to 25.

The 6-foot-minimum fence requirement only applies to properties with just a 5-foot buffer from its neighboring property.

“It’s a small expense,” Meads said. “And it makes me feel a lot better approving this rule.”

The ordinance applies to nine different zoning districts: multifamily, mobile home park, settlers residential, village center, tourist commercial, commercial fishing, marine use, highway commercial and neighborhood commercial.

Also, the board approved a request by Caribee Marine Enterprises for the village to abandon a roughly 4,500-square-foot section of public right-of-way on Mastic Street on Upper Matecumbe Key. It passed 4-1, with Meads as the lone dissenter.

Despite staff saying that granting the request was inconsistent with a section of the comprehensive land-use plan that states that rights-of-way shall be protected from building encroachments, the council approved it with little discussion.

One resident spoke against it, saying the village should receive some type of monetary compensation for the exchange.

The piece of property dead-ends into the boat dealership and has no access to the water.

Other items at the Aug. 3 meeting included:

• Appointment of community activist Van Cadenhead to the Local Planning Agency by Meads. He fills the seat previously held by former councilman Bob Johnson. Also appointed to that same board was Mark Gregg by Gillis. He replaced the seat formerly held by Amy Stone. Gregg is a former councilperson and currently sits on the Achievable Housing Citizens Advisory Committee.

• Direction to the Nearshore Water Citizens Advisory Committee to discuss a possible recreational lobster tagging program. Councilman Mike Forster said the idea was looked at about a decade ago, but never came to fruition. It would only allow those with issued tags to harvest the crustacean. He added that Marathon is soon coming forward with something similar.

• Approval of a tentative solid waste service rate of $408.35 annually for residential units for the upcoming fiscal year. This is the same rate as 2016-17. It can still be adjusted by the board before the Oct. 1. deadline. As is, it would generate roughly $1.7 million for the village.

• Approval of purchasing six public works vehicles totaling roughly $147,000. They will replace the fleet of older models, which will eventually be auctioned off.

• Direction to staff to bring back discussion points on a possible single-use, carryout plastic bag ban. Coral Gables was the first municipality in the state to pass such a law. However, a related Styrofoam lawsuit there is being challenged by an organization that could affect both. Village Attorney Roget Bryan said he is monitoring that case before recommending any changes locally.

The next meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Aug. 24 at the Founders Park Community Room.

bbowden@keysnews.com