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8000 ROGO allocations

8,000 Keys ROGO building allocations? It’s time to take a Last Stand

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.

01/22/2024

I’ve been waiting a long time to break out the capital letters.

MARY, JOSEPH AND THE WEE DONKEY! What in all that’s holy was Marathon City Manager George Garrett thinking on Jan. 11 when he sent a letter to other Keys officials and state Rep. Jim Mooney asking that the state go right ahead and issue upwards of 8,000 building allocations for vacant land in the Keys — and, while he was at it, ask that the state increase hurricane evacuation time from 24 to 31 hours?

He also fired off a whole bunch of letters to just about everyone in Tallahassee with a copy of Marathon City Council’s Jan. 9 resolution complaining Marathon needs more allocations right now because of potential lawsuits.

That resolution, by the way, was tucked into a consent agenda, meaning no one paid it much, if any, attention when it came up for action. Should Marathon council members have known it was there? Sure. If they actually read it. But the fact is, most consent agenda items are routine, needing no discussion and lumped together because they are boring procedural stuff.

Garrett appears to have decided unilaterally that a disruptive stealth campaign coloring WAY outside the lines of what he’d agreed to with the Monroe County Board of Commissioners and the rest of the Keys’ governments was somehow preferable to acting honorably and playing nice in the Keys’ sandbox.

Here’s how he explained himself to Tim O’Hara and Rich Tamborrino at the Keys Citizen:‘It’s the extreme, but it also starts the dialogue,’ Garrett said of the 8,000 units. ‘We have a significant liability and so do they (the county).’

Key West Island News

Keys ROGO allocations | The one-off is misguided

Ahem. In case you missed it, sir, that dialogue started more than a month ago. In the ensuing weeks Monroe County and other incorporated towns and cities in the Keys have agreed to speak with one voice when it comes to chatting up Tallahassee about shipping Rate of Growth Ordinance (ROGO) and Building Permit Allocation System (BPAS) units to the already overburdened island chain. There’s nary a soul in public office in the Keys who doesn’t fully understand the looming financial tsunami that could follow a raft of takings lawsuits.

No one needed your misguided insistence to hurry ahead. That dog don’t hunt, as we say down South.

In fact, the Monroe County Board of Commissioners is on record favoring no new requests for allocations until 2025, giving the county and the municipalities time to figure out how to proceed. From all reports, you were right there with them on that agreement.

Note to Manager Garrett: When public officials say for publication that they were “blindsided”; that your actions were “disturbing”; or that “this is not what we talked about,” you can be assured that behind the scenes they’re ready to slap you silly — again as we say down South.

The good news, if there’s any to be had in this unnecessary drama, is that Rep. Mooney is not in the slightest inclined to assist Garrett’s end run. He told the Keys Citizen he’s opposed to any new ROGO/BPAS allocations this session and he certainly has no intention of attaching such a request to any bill in Tallahassee. And then he warned that ‘If another legislator from another part of the state tries to attach Marathon’s request to an existing bill, “It will get ugly. … We have spent 40 years protecting the environment, and this will destroy everything.’

I suspect this mess will sort itself over the next few weeks as cooler heads prevail. We can get back to digging into the pragmatic solutions that can balance lawsuits and growth and development against the safety of citizens (hurricane evacuation times) and protecting our incredibly fragile ecosystems and quality of life. I certainly hope so.

In the meantime there’s something you can do to make a difference. Show up for Last Stand’s annual meeting, 5:30 p.m., Jan. 29, Williams Hall, 729 Fleming St., Key West. When the rest of us don’t have time to wade through agendas and public meetings, much less follow each twist and turn, Last Stand will. Since its founding in 1987, the organization has been an advocate for sustainable land development, water quality improvements and affordable workforce housing. And, I know the ROGO/BPAS debate is near the top of its agenda.

I’m moderating the panel discussion that night, which includes Chris Bergh, field program director for the Nature Conservancy; Richard Grosso, environmental and land use attorney; Rhonda Haag, chief resilience officer for Monroe County; Brian E. Lapointe, PhD, research professor with Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University; and Jon Rizzo, warning coordination meteorologist at NOAA’s National Weather Service office in Key West.

Those folks actually know what they’re doing, unlike, perhaps, the aforementioned city manager.

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