The Key West Mystique

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Key West Island News

Key West news updates | Catching up with 3 stories

By Linda Grist Cunningham, editor and proprietor

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of Key West Island News and KeyWestWatch Media LLC. She and her husband, a park ranger at Fort Zach, live in Key West with their Cat 5s.

12/23/2023

Back in the olden days when I was a newspaper editor, readers complained “You write something and then never tell us what happened.” Too often they were right.

News of the day piled on top of yesterday’s until, well, that old news disappeared. Happens today. You’ll see a social media post, get all exercised and interested and then forget about it. Most folks have the attention spans of gnats (a perfect description, by the way, of me.)

Let’s catch up with three news stories I’ve written about in the past couple months.

The Bahama Lofts: On Sept. 14, City of Key West officials lined up with shovels for the ceremonial groundbreaking of Lofts at Bahama Village, the affordable housing project being developed by the public-private partnership between AH Monroe and Vestcor Corp. Ninety eight rental units and 28 owner-occupied townhouses should be ready in late 2024. The biggest stumbling block has been how to lower the cost of home ownership for those 28 units.

The money is available through the Monroe County Land Authority, but it comes with a catch that no one wants. State statues require that if those funds are used, owners must re-certify annually that they make no more than 160 percent of the area’s average mean income or they can’t live there. Only a change in state law can amend that requirement.

  • Update: The county is working closely with Monroe County’s state legislators to get the language changed in the upcoming 2024 session. It’s a big ask. I am grateful they’re willing to step up for Key West’s project.

The Key West Tourist Development Association: Not to be confused with the Tourist Development Council, the TDA is the Florida nonprofit that owns the Fantasy Fest name and logos. On Nov. 13, I wrote: “The State of Florida administratively dissolved the TDA in 2023 for failing to file its annual report. The last report was in 2022. Its three board members list as their addresses 922 Caroline St., which is also the address for We’ve Got the Keys, which produces Fantasy Fest, POSH for the Florida Keys SPCA, Songwriters Festival and Taste of Key West. It’s easy to fix that dissolution, of course. Pay a fine and file the report. Maybe someone forgot to do the paperwork.”

  • Update: On Nov. 13, the TDA updated its annual filing complete with a full roster of board members and was reactivated by the state. Good news and maybe an indication that Fantasy Fest et al. will get more guidance from that board.

Key West news updates | Too much development?

Traffic, ROGOs, BPAS and hurricane evacuation: Being a county commissioner these past couple months has not been for the faint of heart. Commissioners face growth and development decisions that catch them squarely between local residents dismayed at the decline in quality of life, safety and the environment and developers bent on wringing out short-term profits from an overburdened infrastructure buckling under the demands of a burgeoning tourist onslaught.

There are as many as 7,954 additional ROGOs and BPAS units to hand out. No sane person wants that, but neither do most folks want the smaller option of 3,500 dumped into the Keys. Adding that many new allocations would be crushing to everyone in the Keys — except the developers who build-and-go.

(ROGO is an acronym for Rate of Growth Ordinance. BPAS stands for Building Permit Allocation System. They are the same thing and are names for Florida’s points system that regulates new building in the Keys.)

  • Update on ROGOs and BPAS: The state uses hurricane evacuation times to determine how many ROGOs and BPAS units get released to Monroe County. The Keys are pushing above the maximum right now. The county, which is working with the municipalities to reach a one-voice-one-fight solution, has asked the state for more time to complete research and come to an agreed-upon solution. The county had hoped for a mid-December consensus so it could be sent to Tallahassee for legislative and executive approval in early 2024.
  • The most recent traffic study shows the Overseas Highway at or above its vehicle-carrying capacity, a statistic that should mean no new development except single-family homes. That might make a lot of locals happy, except that “none” isn’t an option in the real world. So, the county kicked that can down the road and asked for yet another study.

If I were doing a “predictions for 2024” list, I’d include these three. They’re gonna be with us a long time.

2 Comments

  1. John Schafer

    Dear Linda,
    Look forward to all of you articles. Can you find out and tell us the name of the truck driver killed in the crash and fire due to the lane change on route 1 not being properly marked? It seems a deep mystery while passes blame is passed and ducked. Thanks, John Schafer.

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