ISLAMORADA -- The Village Council last week was presented with a committee-drafted 15-page document defining community character.
The definition, which exceeds 4,000 words, is expected to be included in the village's master plan. The definition was brought to the council from the Community Character Task Force, a group of eight appointed village residents.
The village decided to write a definition after a mainland judge ruled that the town lacked community character during a successful challenge to the village's former chain-store ban ordinance.
In addition to the extensive definition, the task force also presented 10 recommendations, ranging from banning drive-thrus to cracking down on abandoned buildings through code enforcement. Many of the recommendations were characterized by the council as general and in need of vetting.
"Do we really want to say no drive-thrus?" asked Councilman Ken Philipson. "To have blanket statements doesn't make sense."
Another recommendation was to restrict the sale of alcohol within 500 feet of a child-care facility, school or place of worship.
"Common sense is what's going to dictate this thing," said Chris Sante, a former village mayor who owns multiple businesses in the Upper Keys.
Sante cautioned the council against overregulation.
"There's a way around almost everything if you put your mind to it," he said. "There's nothing more creative than free enterprise."
Each member of the council praised the efforts of the group and Corie Abel, who chaired the task force and presented its findings.
"We bring them up and hope you will research more into them," Abel said.
With the presentation, the task force was relieved of its duties but may, as individuals, speak at the future workshops, where it will be decided how much of the definition to include into the village's comprehensive land-use plan.
In addition to task force workshops, the village is also planning a meeting regarding public use of the Indian Key and Tea Table fills. Councilman Mike Forster proposed the meeting, which would include Florida Department of Transportation officials, to figure out what can be done to manage access.
The stip of U.S. 1 between Upper and Lower Matecumbe keys is a popular weekend and holiday gathering spot for mainlanders.
Forster said he doesn't want to prohibit use of the area but favors capacity limitations like at Anne's Beach.
Also, as expected, the council gave staff approval to spend up to $10,000 to replace a flag pole at the entrance to Founders Park. The council also agreed to lower the speed limit on the Old Highway from 30 to 25 mph. Final approval will come at a future meeting.