Feb 052016

by Blue Paper staff…….

For the second time (in three months), land developers, led by Frank Toppino and Rockland Operations, LLC, will be asking the Monroe County Commissioners on Wednesday to alter the zoning of 14 acres of vacant land on Big Coppitt Key so that they can build 213 affordable housing units.

The developer’s previous attempt at the vote was abruptly withdrawn one day prior to the November 17, 2015 BOCC agenda.

The reason for the November 17 cancellation, as explained by the developer’s attorney Barton Smith (of Smith Oropeza Hawks, P.I.), was so that the developers could “work out provisions of the site specific zoning.”

The latest version of the amendment request includes a re-shuffling of the mix of affordable housing income categories from staff’s original recommendation of no less than 30% very low-income, 30% low-income, and 30% median-income, to 20 percent low and very-low, 10 percent median, and 70 percent moderate income categories.

The moderate-income limit, according to County guidelines, for a single-person household is $73,440 while moderate-income limits for a two-person household (married or domestic partners) is $111,840. The maximum monthly rental rate for a one-bedroom moderate affordable housing unit is $2,097.

County Commissioners are under intense pressure to vote for affordable housing projects whenever the opportunity presents itself due to the current affordable housing crisis, but many residents disagree with the notion that “moderate-income affordable housing,” with such high income threshholds and with 1-bedroom apartments renting at nearly $2100/month can, in good faith, be called “affordable.”

A groundswell of opposition to the zoning change by neighboring residents and homeowners in Big Coppitt—as evidenced by a boisterous Big Coppitt Town Hall meeting in January—has gathered steam that feeds off fears of major potential adverse impacts to the tranquil working class neighborhood. Doubling or tripling the existing density (there are less than 70 homes on adjacent streets of Riviera Drive and Puerta Drive, and about 210 houses in the Gulfrest subdivision) has residents fretting about traffic congestion and all the problems that come with packing an additional 213 units into 14 acres of land.

“All the traffic flows in and out of 4th Street onto U.S. 1,” one irate resident pointed out to Bart Smith during the January Town Hall meeting. “It’s bad enough as it is, we have to wait ten minutes during rush hour to get on the highway. I can’t imagine how bad it’ll get when you add another 1,000 car trips per day.”

Resident and homeowner Mike Bellows, who lives on Riviera Drive, rattled off a list of the other problems that come with doubling the density overnight: “More barking dogs, more loud music, more drug dealers, more theft, more school busses, more ambulances, more domestic disturbances, more police calls…”

Barton Smith, however, attempted to counter those fears with promises to create multiple ingress/egress points from the proposed site, and he pointed out that housing is a better deal than rock-crushers and warehouses.

“That sounds like blackmail to me,” someone in the Town Hall crowd shouted.

The Navy, which uses a nearby runway at Boca Chica for flight training has also voiced its concern. In a letter to administrator Ray Eubanks at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Commanding Officer S.P. McAlearney writes ”Naval Air Station Key West is not in favor of any increased residential density in high noise areas 65 DNL and above. Per Naval instruction, residential use is discouraged in DNL 65-69 and strongly discouraged in DNL 70-74. The absence of viable alternative development options should be determined.”

The State Land Planning Agency, for its part, released a report on the zoning change request that addresses that viable alternative. “Based on data submitted by the county,” the report states, the County has 8,168 vacant parcels and 1,970 building permit allocations which leaves a deficit of allocations of 6,198 parcels. The County failed to establish that in the absence of viable alternative development, that a demonstrated community need for the residential use would not be met if development were prohibited in these zones.“

“I know that affordable housing is desperately needed,’ Bellows said, “But at the expense of an existing neighborhood? That doesn’t sound like good politics. Our elected officials aren’t going to be making any friends from this neighborhood if they vote to ruin us.”

The zoning change request is scheduled to be heard at 3:00 PM at the Harvey Government Center on Truman Avenue.

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 February 5, 2016  Posted by at 1:24 am Issue #152, News  Add comments

  One Response to “County to Vote on Controversial Big Coppitt Rezoning on Wednesday”

  1. I found it very enlightening to investigate what County taxes are being paid on the land holdings of the bubbas on Rockland. Suffice it to say that the rest of us make up the shortfall.
    As far as affordable housing goes, the BOCC (and City governments) are all for it in theory and public presentation but in practice they invariably vote to destroy the truly affordable housing in favor of high end development or resorts with slave quarters for the help. How many RV parks were destroyed by rezoning into townhouse condos with unit prices over $500k and rents well over $2k/month? Knights Key RV campground in Marathon may be the most recent example of the pending destruction of (barely) affordable housing in favor of a higher density resort with slave quarters. Lucky’s Landing RV park on Little Torch was rezoned into ugly ticky-tacky townhomes that lease for about $2,400/month but are mostly still vacant. That $2,400 is after-tax dollars and does not include utilities.
    I recall after Hurricane Wilma that County Code Enforcement drove through the “Baypoint Trailer Park” subdivision condemning any mobile homes that had shifted slightly on their “foundations” of concrete blocks. I have the previous County FEMA rep on tape telling a senior semi-retired professional that “We will never be satisfied until we have forced you to tear down your home and build a stilt house.” She was being denied a permit for a deck to replace the back steps. For the record, her house is mostly CBS with a crawl space and is only about 1 foot below the FEMA 100 year flood zone.

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