Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Tallahassee meeting sets development units for Keys

Three Florida Keys environmental groups are opposed to a plan that will dictate how much development can occur in the Keys in the next 10 years.

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet are scheduled to vote on the plan Thursday in Tallahassee.

Keys leaders and the state Department of Economic Opportunity have tentatively agreed to a plan that would give the Keys 3,555 state-issued Rate of Growth Ordinance (ROGO) units during the next 10 years. A limited number of ROGO units are allocated by the state to the Keys for issuance to property owners seeking to develop residential units.

The 3,555 ROGO units would be allocated annually to the Keys under an existing formula, with the county receiving 197 a year, Key West receiving 91, Islamorada getting 28, Marathon receiving 30, Layton receiving three and Key Colony Beach receiving six, according to County Growth Management Director Christine Hurley.

If Key West does not use its ROGO units, they would go back to the county and the municipalities.

Last Stand, the Florida Keys Citizens Association and the Florida Keys Environmental Fund argue that the 3,555 ROGO units should be allocated over 20 years, not 10 years, Last Stand Board President Naja Girard said.

By stretching out the allocations, the county and the municipalities would have more time to put "safeguards in place against takings cases (lawsuits)" and "give the county more time to purchase property (for conservation purposes)," Girard said.

Florida Keys cities and county government leaders will meet with Gov. Rick Scott and the cabinet on Thursday in Tallahassee to talk about the plan and what is known as the Keys "work plan."

The work plan monitors how the Keys are doing protecting endangered species, meeting state imposed wastewater upgrades and keeping hurricane evacuation times in the Keys to less than 24 hours.

Thursday's meeting is the first time Keys government leaders have met with the cabinet since the state Department of Economic Opportunity and local officials completed a series of meetings in the Keys last year to determine accurately the amount of time is needed to evacuate the island chain and how much development can occur in the Keys in the next 10 years.

Last Stand and Tavernier Community Association President John Hammerstrom challenged the findings and the agreements that came out of the meetings, arguing they were based on allowing more development, not safely evacuating the Keys and protecting the environment. The agreements led to the allocation of the 3,555 units.

"Every time we get close to the 24 hour mark, they move the goal post," Girard said.

tohara@keysnews.com

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