OVERDEVELOPMENT PUTS SO MANY THINGS AT RISK:
our marine environment – we are surrounded on all sides by the Florida Marine Sanctuary. Its reefs and protected seagrasses are dying and the waters are polluted by shallow sewage well discharge full of pharmaceuticals and other pollutants!
our citizens and their ability to evacuate ahead of a hurricane – there is only ONE road out when danger approaches!
our quality of life – US 1 has already received failing grades for traffic!
And it’s not just overdevelopment, it’s the kind of development that keeps happening. Workforce housing has been needed in the Keys for decades, yet solutions seem to be ignored in favor of the latest vacation rental. We all need a workforce that can afford to live here – from paramedics to teachers, police personnel to bartenders and wait staff, from landscapers to grocery store employees, and so on. We need a robust workforce, not simply a tourist destination.
Here are a few of the projects FOLKs and many local residents have been involved with, and some of the solutions posed.
No More ROGOs
These additional building allocations undermine 30+ years of science-based and court approved growth limitations for the Keys. After hurricane Irma, then governor, Rick Scott created out-of-thin-air 1300 additional building allocations under the guise of “replacing lost housing”. However, redevelopment or rebuilding does not require new allocations. Was this just another ploy to exceed the state-mandated growth limitation implemented decades ago and due to sunset in 2023 (now extended to 2026)?
A Court-ordered peer reviewed study back in the 1990s analyzed the Carrying Capacity of the Keys (think the maximum sustainable development pressure on roads, hurricane evacuation, drinking water, wastewater, and near shore water quality). It’s the basis for our limited growth under the ROGO system, which is used in an attempt to protect the Keys residents, infrastructure, natural resources, and quality of life from overdevelopment.
Beyond the obvious quality of life issues of overcrowding and damage to the unique environment of the Florida Keys, there’s a state mandate that requires the residents of the entire island chain of the Keys be able to evacuate within a 24-hour timeframe. The state recognized that because of our low-lying geography, and single evacuation route (US 1), we have a unique situation and human life would be at risk, if the Keys could not be evacuated quickly. Yet, even that 24-hour mandate was adjusted to allow for more development. Instead of considering EVERY person in the Keys at the approach of tropical storm force winds, the pool of citizens in the evacuation modeling was reduced. Tourists, non-residents, RV’s, travel trailers, live-aboard, military personnel, mobile home residents, special needs residents, nursing home and hospital patients were all omitted from the modeling and asked to evacuate at 48 hours notice. It may make sense to evacuate those with special needs or less permanent structures first, but the goal was clearly to maximize the amount of development, while still meeting the state’s 24-hour evacuation mandate. But, what happens when you have less than 48 hours notice to evacuate? The very meteorologists we rely upon tell us the one thing they cannot accurately predict is how rapidly a storm intensifies!
[Evacuations for days, ahead of Hurricane Irma]
Marc Serota/Getty Images.
Miami Herald (9/6/17).
Workforce Housing has been an issue in the Keys for decades. Various task forces and studies cite one major factor as the biggest contributing issue – vacation rentals.
Property that used to be long-term rentals for our workforce is now being used as vacation rentals. The 2015 FIU Workforce/Affordable Housing Assessment and Action Study for the City of Marathon probably sums up the problem best:
“Even if the City successfully implements its affordable Housing Action Agenda, and develops the full supply of units recommended in this report, it may be fighting an ultimately losing battle if it cannot effectively manage the supply of vacation rentals within its borders. *** Although this issue is extremely politically charged it is the opinion of the Center that this trend, if left unattended will wipe out any benefits that even the most effective affordable housing program(s) could create, and continue the pattern of price escalation and limited housing choices.”