Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
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County looks ahead with comp plan
ROGO, building permits top list of issues as Monroe grows

The Monroe County Commission on Wednesday will continue to refine a series of proposed policies that will guide development in the unincorporated areas of the Florida Keys for the next 20 years.

Since 2009, the county has been working with the private planning firm Keith and Schnars to update and rewrite its comprehensive land-use plan. County officials expect to complete the process by the end of the year.

The comp plan establishes the overarching policies for development in the county. It takes into account climate change and sea-level rise, the total carrying capacity of the Keys, protection of endangered species, and safe evacuation of the Keys prior to a hurricane.

"This is a highly significant document that will guide and direct development for the next 20 years," said Mayte Santamaria, a senior county planner.

One of the major issues that will be discussed, and possibly decided, will be how many development allocations, called Rate of Growth Ordinance (ROGO) units, the county will dole out each year.

Last year, the state Department of Economic Opportunity, which oversees development in the Florida Keys, agreed to give the Keys 3,555 ROGO units during the next 10 years. Under the plan, unincorporated county will receive 197 ROGO units a year -- Key West will receive 91, Islamorada, 28, Marathon, 30, Layton, three, and Key Colony Beach, six.

Once those are used, the Keys will have essentially reached build out, and the state may no longer issue new ROGOs, according to county Growth Management Division estimates.

State law dictates that the Keys can only build to a level at which the chain of islands can be evacuated 24 hours prior to a hurricane making landfall. Keys governments also cannot allow development in wetlands or in endangered species habitat.

There are 11,364 vacant private parcels in the entire county, including the cities. After the 3,555 permit allocations, there would still be a projected 7,814 vacant private parcels remaining. In 2013, the value of those parcels was an estimated $317 million, county Growth Management Director Christine Hurley said.

The County Commission will discuss spreading its share of the ROGO allocations over 20 years instead of 10, Santamaria said. This would give county officials more time to work on a plan to handle undeveloped properties, and possibly raise money to buy some of those lands.

County Mayor Sylvia Murphy supports the proposal as she fears the state will not issue any more ROGO allocations after the 3,555.

"Personally, I would like it done," Murphy said of extending the timeframe by another 10 years. "I am not willing to gamble they will give us more. I don't want to call the state's bluff."

The commission will meet at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Marathon Government Center, 2798 Overseas Highway.

tohara@keysnews.com

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