Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Saturday, February 16, 2013
County to deal with power issues on Feb. 26

Monroe County Mayor George Neugent has called for a special County Commission meeting later this month to discuss -- and possibly vote on -- bringing utilities to No Name Key and to a remote area of Key Largo.

Neugent's request for the special meeting on Feb. 26 comes less than a week after County Commissioner David Rice encouraged the commission to vote on whether to issue No Name Key residents building permits, which would allow them to connect to power lines that Keys Energy Services installed there last summer.

The county has sued Keys Energy over the placement of the lines, as some of them run over county-owned conservation land. Also, utilities are "discouraged" on No Name Key, according to the county's comprehensive land use plan, and are "prohibited" according to its land development regulations.

The special meeting also comes as the county is discussing allowing the Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District to run sewer lines in an area off Card Sound Road, where utilities are currently prohibited.

On Feb. 26, the commission will discuss the lawsuits, altering its land development rules and comp plan and granting the building permits to No Name Key residents to connect to the power lines, Neugent said.

"There are a lot of issues and we need to deal with them in their own meeting, without the distractions of a regular commission meeting," Neugent said.

County Commissioner Heather Carruthers cautioned against granting the building permits on No Name, as it would violate the county's land development regulations. If the commission wants to allow utilities in areas where they are currently prohibited, it should go through the process of amending the comp plan and land development rules, she said.

"We have a process in place and we need to let that process play out," Carruthers said. "Overriding our own legal processes sets a bad precedent."

The county is currently updating its comp plan and land development regulations and has discussed changing aspects that deal with prohibiting utilities in Coastal Barrier Resource Act zones such as No Name Key and rural Key Largo.

In calling for a vote on the building permit issue last week, Rice pointed out the discrepancy between the county's comprehensive land-use plan and its land development regulations. Florida Statute 163.3194 states that when the comp plan and land development regulations are in conflict, the county must abide by the comp plan, not the land development regulations, Rice said.

Rice, Neugent and Commissioner Danny Kolhage have said the county has been discouraging utilities on No Name Key for more than a decade, so it has already met that requirement of the comp plan.

Commissioner Sylvia Murphy said she planned to vote against issuing the building permits.

She argued that bringing commercial power there is not about doing what's best for the island, but increasing the property values of the people who bought homes there knowing they were not entitled to commercial power.

The commission will meet at 9 a.m. Feb. 26 at the Marathon Government Center.

tohara@keysnews.com

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