August 14, 2019

KEY LARGO — Monroe County has submitted a Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery request for up to $8 million for new construction funding and up to $2.1 million for land acquisition funding for the redevelopment of Howard’s Haven and Conch Key trailer park sites and the development of the Port Largo Atlantic Boulevard site.

The grant application was submitted ahead of the Aug. 6 deadline. If funding is granted, 18 recreational vehicles and two mobile homes on the Lower and Middle Keys sites would be permanently displaced. It is unclear if any of the households are eligible for compensation or assistance under the Uniform Relocation Act, according to the application.

The application is seeking future land acquisition funding for the Avenue C parcel in Big Pine Key and 2 North Conch Ave, and reimbursement for the 31 South Conch Avenue parcel. No acquisition funding is needed for the Port Largo parcel since Monroe County purchased it in November 2003 as an extension of the Key Largo Community Park, according to archived Monroe County Commission agenda items.

The grant funding would cover a $3.7 million project on Conch Key that would house eight one-bedroom and two two-bedroom units, $3.3 million to build 10 one-bedroom units at Howard’s Haven trailer park on Big Pine Key, $4.9 million to build 12 two-bed-room units scattered on Big Pine Key and Little Torch Key, and $1.9 million for the five three-bedroom units in Key Largo.

The 25 affordable housing units would be managed by the Monroe County Housing Authority and would be available to people earning less than 80 percent of the area median income level, which means someone earning up to $53,500 annually would qualify.

County commissioners approved filing the grant submission at the cost of $1,500 during its November meeting as part of consultant Hanna Eskra’s $55,000 professional services fee. The Key Largo site wasn’t listed on the agenda since it was a late add-on.

Port Largo residents say the commission’s addition of the Port Largo site to the grant application lacked transparency.

Because the five 3-bedroom dormitory style units are to be built in the park extension parcel, six pickleball courts planned for that site are now destined to be built inside the existing community park, which residents complain would replace 5,000 square feet of grass with asphalt.

The Port Largo community, which consists of about 300 homes, has been collecting signatures as part of its petition to save the green space.

A Port Largo community meeting is planned for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20, at the Lions Club located at 5 Homestead Avenue.

The county is pursuing multiple efforts to alleviate the affordable housing crisis plaguing the Florida Keys.

tjava@keysnews.com