Jun 242016
 
florida keys environment water quality

 

by Kevin Diaz [candidate for State Representative, Dist,. 120]......

For many months now, we have heard our local leaders present the Florida Keys Stewardship Act as an amazing piece of legislation for Monroe County. However, there are many provisions within the Florida Keys Stewardship Act that put into question the purported positive impact of the bill. The Act essentially allows housing developers to build on environmentally critical land in our community. To top it off, it labels affordable housing as 160% of the median household income for Monroe County. That means we’re selling environmentally sensitive land so developers can make a profit, not so members of our community can afford to live in Monroe County.

It took many hours of reading Florida Statutes cited within the footnotes of the bill, as well as reviewing the initial proposed Act and all subsequent amendments, in order to uncover this very clever maneuver. In the interest of not putting everyone to sleep, I have inserted the statuary language within the footnotes.

First, within the Act it states that an additional 3,550 residential units may be constructed. Having this provision within an environmental protection bill seems strange. Why would we be allowing the opportunity for the addition of residential living units on top of environmentally critical land in a water quality bill?

Second, within the subsection labeled Everglades Restoration Bonds, it cites to Footnote 74, Florida Statute 253.034[1], which labels Capital Facilities and infrastructure improvement as some of the legislative goals of the Everglades Restoration Bonds. What does “Capital Facilities and Infrastructure” mean? Within the surtaxes section of the Act[2], it labels affordable housing as infrastructure. How can affordable housing be an infrastructure need included in this bill, when the purpose of the Act was to receive capital in order to further treat our water concerns and better protect our environmentally sensitive land?

Third, the Act creates a mechanism to sell environmentally critical land.[3] The bill cites that the building of affordable housing is a critical state concern. With this language the State has officially labeled affordable housing as a critical state concern and the land authority is authorized to sell off land in order to achieve that goal.

While I agree that affordable housing is an issue our community needs to address, it should not be at the expense of our environmentally sensitive land. It especially should not be permitted just to allow developers the ability to sell or rent units for ridiculous prices. Under this Act, the price point for what is deemed as affordable housing is for someone that earns nearly $100,000.00 year. In what world is that affordable? I was shocked when I read the State could sell off our environmentally critical land to build housing, but when I saw that it was not even affordable housing, it helped to reinforce the thought that maybe special interest groups got their way again.

In my analysis of this Act, the Florida Keys receives $5,000,000 in guaranteed funds, and in exchange the State of Florida receives the power to sell off environmentally critical land in order to build residential living units for people that make nearly $100,000 a year. As a community we need to begin looking deeper into the Florida Keys Stewardship Act and determine whether this Act needs to be rewritten completely.

Thank you,

Kevin Diaz

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[1] Florida statute 253.034 states “Short-term and long-term management goals shall include measurable objectives for the following, as appropriate: (1) Habitat restoration and improvement. (2) Public access and recreational opportunities. (3) Hydrological preservation and restoration. (4) Sustainable forest management. (5) Exotic and invasive species maintenance and control. (6) Capital facilities and infrastructure . . .

[2] Subsection Discretionary surtaxes states “[a]ny land acquisition expenditure for a residential housing project in which at least 30 percent of the units are affordable to individuals or families whose total annual household income does not exceed 120 percent of the area median income adjusted for household size, if the land is owned by a local government or by a special district that enters into a written agreement with the local government to provide such housing.”

[3] Within the subsection labeled Purchase of Lands in Areas of Critical State Concern it states “ [i]n carrying out the purposes of the areas of critical state concern program, the land authority is also authorized to: [a]cquire and dispose of real and personal property or any interest therein when the acquisition is necessary or appropriate to . . . provide affordable housing to families whose income does not exceed 160 percent of the median family income for the area.

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View More: http://andreaarostegui.pass.us/kevin-diaz-headshots
Kevin Diaz is a candidate for State Representative, District 120.  Diaz graduated from Florida State University and St. Thomas University School of Law. Diaz is a member of the Florida Bar and currently practices law in the Miami.  He interned with the Community Justice Project and assisted Debbie Wassermann Shultz in her constituency service office.  Diaz will be at the Hometown PAC "Meet the Candidates" at Studios of Key West tonight [June 24th, 2016].
[NOTE: The Blue Paper invites all candidates and elected officials to submit articles to help voters better understand their concerns and points of view on the various issues facing our community.]

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 June 24, 2016  Posted by at 7:09 am News  Add comments

  9 Responses to “Kevin Diaz: The Clever Deception of the “Florida Keys Stewardship Act””

  1. Thank you, Mr. Diaz for doing the brain numbing work of examining this bill and exposing its hidden intent. This is typical of the influence greedy developers have on greedy lawmakers in Tallahassee. As you point out, on what planet is affordable housing described as 160% of the median household income? This is another case of legalizing a flim-flam on the residents of Monroe County and destroying our fragile environment for profit.

    The right wing is the champ of misleading titles for bills designed to do the exact opposite of what is advertised. I give you, “The Florida Keys Stewardship Act” as a prime example of their deceit.

  2. It is nice to see that someone actually reads and interprets a Bill! Good job!

    “Stewardship” is defined in Wikipedia as:
    Stewardship is an ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources. The concepts of stewardship can be applied to the environment and nature, economics, health, property, information, theology, etc.

    I think that once again, the Bill name embodies deceit. Why is everything about money and deceit?

    There is a typo in either the body of this article (160% of median income) or the footnote (120%). I did not check the median income stats to see if $100k is correct, but the median income is skewed by the fabulously wealthy here, and Census or IRS numbers would not properly account for people of no fixed address with income below IRS reporting requirements.

    • The 160% comes into play in the statute that deals with the powers of the Land Authority. Florida Statutes. 380.0666 Powers of land authority which was also amended through the same bill process as part of the Act [the 160% language was reauthorized]. See footnote 3.

  3. I understand our state representative Holly Raschein sponsored this legislation. She is running for reelection this year. Kevin Diaz is running against her. Raschein is Republican, Diaz is Democrat.

    Regardless of the election, as Diaz presents it, this is a sorry mess.

    It reminds me of tying hurricane evacuation time to new building rights (development), when the main reason for limiting new construction in the Keys was over-development and human sewerage polluting the land and the adjacent salt water.

    But maybe this new bill is worse than that. Maybe a lot worse.

    What possible relationship is there between tying preserving endangered lands, on the one hand, and building a whole lot of new housing in the Florida Keys, on the other hand?

    The way Diaz presents it, this bill Raschein sponsored bypasses the building rights limits Tallahassee imposed on the Florida Keys, when they were declared an area of critical concern.

    I ran for county commission 3 times (2006, 2008, 2010). If what Diaz wrote is accurate, this bill Rashein sponsored don’t pass any smell test known to me. It looks like it was written by developers.

    Reminds of Key West elected officials calling Peary Court apartment complex, with 2-BR units renting at $2400 a month, plus utilities, affordable housing.

    • Don’t see how what Diaz says turns into: “The way Diaz presents it, this bill Raschein sponsored bypasses the building rights limits Tallahassee imposed on the Florida Keys, when they were declared an area of critical concern.” Nothing in the Act changes the number of buildings that can go up. If I’ve understood, and it is complicated: The Act specifies that land can be bought OR SOLD in order to achieve any of the goals of the Act – one of those goals is the creation of [not so] affordable housing [depending on the source of funding it could be limited to ‘160% of median income’ or ‘30% of the units must be restricted to 120% of median income’. Other goals of the Act are water quality and conservation oriented [canal restoration for example]. Another one that was added via this Act and that makes me feel not altogether comfortable is using the money for takings claims when the musical chairs game on building rights stops. [This means that instead of using the money for conservation purposes or for “affordable” housing it could be used to buy out those claiming a “taking” when there are no longer any building rights left. The problem I have with this is that the government is in such a good position when it comes to takings claims. The government has the advantage and would be able to claim a serious safety issue. Such a takings claim has never been adjudicated yet we now have what could be looked at as a codified admission that the government would be liable to pay these land owners for a “taking”.] It looks like what he is saying is the only guarantee of funding is the first 5 million next year [any more than that would have to be asked (begged) for each year] and that it would now be codified that the state government can sell off Monroe County land that was formerly purchased for conservation purposes. [Of course lands in the Keys would still be subject to our land development regulations.] In 2013 the State did sell off over 4000 acres of conservation land. Originally 17 Florida Keys conservation parcels were on the State’s list of parcels for sale. Local Land Authority and environmental groups lobbied the State to remove them from the list and ultimately they were not sold. Now, we have a Stewardship Act that specifically allows the state to sell those lands – after giving the local government a right of first refusal. This is why Diaz says this is an exchange of 5 million guaranteed for giving the state a solid go ahead on selling environmental lands in the Keys if they want to [unless “we” want to buy them.]

  4. Let me know when State Rep. Raschein responds and everyone figures the whole thing out. This is part of an article by Timothy O’Hara about the intent of the bill that appeared on or about 11/27/15 in the Key West Citizen:

    “Florida Keys leaders have mounted a serious offensive to lobby for the passage of a state bill that could bring as much as $200 million in the next 10 years to the Keys for water quality and the acquisition of conservation land.

    Monroe County and Keys officials have made numerous trips to Tallahassee in the past two months to lobby for the passage of the Florida Keys Stewardship Bill, which if passed would bring $20 million a year in state funding for 10 years for the purchase of environmentally sensitive land, and to pay for canal restoration, stormwater and wastewater projects and other water quality programs.

    The bill also requests annual appropriation of $5 million for the Keys from the Florida Forever program, which funds land conservation projects.”

  5. Gosh, maybe I misread Diaz. Maybe he doesn’t mean:

    “First, within the Act it states that an additional 3,550 residential units may be constructed. Having this provision within an environmental protection bill seems strange. Why would we be allowing the opportunity for the addition of residential living units on top of environmentally critical land in a water quality bill?

    “Second, within the subsection labeled Everglades Restoration Bonds, it cites to Footnote 74, Florida Statute 253.034[1], which labels Capital Facilities and infrastructure improvement as some of the legislative goals of the Everglades Restoration Bonds. What does “Capital Facilities and Infrastructure” mean? Within the surtaxes section of the Act[2], it labels affordable housing as infrastructure. How can affordable housing be an infrastructure need included in this bill, when the purpose of the Act was to receive capital in order to further treat our water concerns and better protect our environmentally sensitive land?

    “Third, the Act creates a mechanism to sell environmentally critical land.[3] The bill cites that the building of affordable housing is a critical state concern. With this language the State has officially labeled affordable housing as a critical state concern and the land authority is authorized to sell off land in order to achieve that goal.”

    Protecting the Florida Keys environment, I’m all for. Cleaning up polluted canals, what 500 or so?, I’m all for. Only sure way I see to do that is fill them all in.

    There has only been one county commission candidate known to me, who put the environment ahead of development. That county commission candidate is me.

    “No more new development, period, the end. The Keys already are way over-developed, and no one living here can look in a mirror can honestly say otherwise” was my mantra in the 2006 county commission race against George Neugent. I received one-third of the votes that year, doing zero advertising.

    In 2010, I received only 1/4 of the votes.By then, the Keys economy had tanked, due to, yep, the Keys being way over-developed. Maybe by then more voters were inclined toward a Republican county commissioner, than before the economy tanked because of Republican thinking, yes?, no?

    This bill is a Trojan horse, I say. It looks like an environmental bill, but it’s gotcha is it’s a development bill. Might be, the development part of the bill, making housing infrastructure, are you kidding me?, is the bait to get the bill passed. But then, might be a cow is a horse and pigs fly daily over US 1.

  6. Perhaps some more ancient history is relevant.

    In January 1995, came to Big Pine Key for about 10 days, and ate mornings in the cafe at the motel on Big Pine.

    I read in a Keynoter issue an article about Florida Keys businesses pushing for US 1 to be widened, so more people could get into the Keys easier and faster, and spend their money here. The local chambers of commerce in the Keys were leading the charge for that.

    The next week’s Keynoter continued the drama. Several US government agencies had come out against the widening of US 1, because it would adversely affect the environment and that trumped bringing more business $$ into the Keys by widening US 1. Keys business leaders were then quoted as saying, it was not to bring in more business $$ that they promoted widening US 1, but to save lives by widening US 1 and making hurricane evacuation faster.

    🙂

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