September 11, 2019

KEY LARGO — The Save Our Green Space group is asking that the Monroe County Commission adopt a resolution making a vacant lot adjacent to the Key Largo Community Park part of the park and not a five-unit workforce housing project.

The group of local community members also wants the county to revert to its former sounding board policy that allows public speakers more time and frequency to air their concerns to elected officials.

The main focus of Save Our Green Space is to preserve open space inside the community park where the county is planning to install six pickleball courts. Instead, the group wants the courts built on the vacant lot where the county is seeking to build five dorm-style housing units.

Members of the Port Largo neighborhood, as part of Save Our Green Space collective, have submitted a request to the county administrator to ask commissioners for the resolution during the Sept. 18 county commission meeting in Key Largo.

The request follows the new protocol or format set forth last month when commissioners revised the sounding board policy to limit public comment.

Marlen Weeks, who has spearheaded Save Our Green Space, will be limited to five minutes to address commissioners.

On Aug. 6, county officials applied for a Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery grant that would earmark $1.9 million to build five three-bedroom units on the vacant parcel adjacent to the park.

The Port Largo tract was not publicly advertised as part of the grant application before submission. Rather, the plans for affordable housing at the park were divulged during a Monroe County Parks & Recreation Advisory Board meeting in July.

A handful of Save Our Green Space members filed to the podium at the county commission meeting just days later to request a public vetting of the decision to add the vacant parcel, known as Tract E, ahead of the grant being submitted. Their request was denied.

At the following commission meeting in August, commissioners changed the sounding board policy to reduce public comment opportunities.

The revised policy gives scheduled speakers five minutes rather than 10 and subsequent speakers three minutes instead of five. It also prohibits speakers from addressing the dais more than once every six months. Previously, there were no limitations on frequency.

Additionally, the commission cannot take any immediate action on any topic discussed.

Commissioner Michelle Coldiron has since asked to revisit the sounding board decision during the September meeting.

Save Our Green Space members scheduled meetings with four of the five commissioners ahead of this month’s meeting to raise concerns about the revised sounding board policy.

tjava@keysnews.com