Where Better to Spend Ten Million Tourist Tax Dollars?

maureen bramlage headshot

by Maureen Bramlage……..

Where should $10 million in tourist tax dollars  be spent now,  if not at Peary Court?  A public-private partnership can build, at little or no cost to the City, the 70 units the  Planning Dept. has recommended for Bahama Village;  likewise 65 new units at the old Mosquito Control site. The 100 additional units at Poinciana must be done piecemeal to avoid displacing current residents, and can use the remaining $2.5 million in tourist tax dollars,  plus an additional $2 million per year coming in from that fund.  Commissioners representing those districts must gain constituent support to go forward, and the required processes will take at least three years.

For this reason, last fall Mayor Cates appointed a volunteer advisory committee  to try to identify any additional solutions that might be quick and effective.  Members were people with relevant knowledge and experience to offer, and nothing personal to gain.  They met weekly with City staff and leaders to review and discuss all related documents and plans,  look over the entire meager inventory of City-owned land,  and  submit recommendations.  Their unanimous, top recommendation was the purchase of Peary Court, and that advice was presented to the Commission by the Mayor.  Other recommendations were:  increasing densities through changes in land use regulations, and adding affordable live-aboard slips to Garrison Bight,  both being considered.    Remaining City-owned land is either swamp,  contaminated, or both, and too costly to “cure.”

A Peary Court purchase works right now.  It pays for itself – rents pay all expenses including mortgage, doesn’t use up scare remaining rogos/building permits,  preserves  157 workforce housing units in perpetuity, and yields additional building sites.  City staff and leaders worked long and hard to design the  proposal that ensures there will be no cost to taxpayers.   A contract has yet to be negotiated.   A yes vote gives the City the right to have all homes and systems inspected and evaluated, and offer a price that reflects any and all needed repairs, deferred maintenance, or design changes. The two referenda on the Mar. 15 ballot authorize but do not obligate the City to purchase Peary Court, and the wording ensures that they will go forward only if the rents pay all the expenses.”

I urge everyone to vote Yes for worker housing.

Maureen Bramlage

Housing First Pac


Maureen Bramlage, two years retired,  brought to her volunteer work on Mayor Cates’ 2015 Affordable Housing Committee, 50 yrs. of investment experience in residential real estate and vacation rentals, most relevant: helping forty buyers to  qualify for home purchase through rent credits, and designing and building three subdivisions, the last of which was the first affordable housing community in the path of growth of her former home city. She moved to Key West 21 yrs. ago and has joined the political action committee to promote the City’s acquisition of Peary Court for worker housing because she wants to support the work of our City Commissioners and Management providing and preserving worker housing.
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8 thoughts on “Where Better to Spend Ten Million Tourist Tax Dollars?

  1. So we’re buying Peary Court because we have $10 million in tourist tax dollars burning a hole in our wallet? Is this one of those “we have to spend this money” kind of arguments?
    I always love it when I hear the government has put forth a commission to figure out where to spend some money. The government has money and needs to spend it but does not know on what? Really….. How about not spending it and giving it back to the taxpayers as a refund of over collected taxes.
    It seems there were alternative ideas but they might take a few years to work out, so rather than pursue them we run to buy Peary Court? Some of those ideas actually sound considerably better than Peary Court. 70 Units in Bahama Village, 65 at the old mosquito control site and 100 units in Poinciana. This adds up to 235 Units…. I’m sorry but that is a full 50% more than the Peary Court purchase. If affordable housing is really an issue then I would think getting the most number of units for the money would be a priority rather than what can we grab the quickest.
    Additionally, Maureen points out that the two referendums only authorize the city to make the purchase, it does not obligate them. This argument mirrors telling a teenage boy he is authorized to have sex but not obligated. Again, Really? You authorize them to spend the money and they will run around tossing $’s until it gone.

    Sorry to say that Maureen’s arguments only further my decision to vote NO for both.

    P.S. When will folks stop calling Peary Court “affordable workforce housing”. At the proposed rents it does not come close to meeting the definition.

  2. The biggest difference between using the $10 million to build housing on land that the city already owns – vs. – purchasing Peary Court, is “what happens to the money that the rents generate?”

    If new housing is built, not only will it be new, but it will be owned by the city. The rents generated are returned to the housing fund and can be invested in the purchase of additional housing.

    Instead, by using the $10 million as a down payment to qualify for a $45 million loan, the rents generated will go to the bank to pay off the mortgage. It will be 15 years or more — however long it takes to pay off the note — before the rents will start to fund any new construction (at which point the original units will have outlived their original design life).

    The rents only cover the mortgage price, not the purchase price. The downpayment is like a gift from the parents… it never really gets repaid.

  3. Oh my dear Maureen. WHO else was on this panel? I WANT NAMES! Did you all not THINK to ask the tough questions? Play devils advocate about what do we NOT know about this purchase and HOW could this bite us in the butt!!! – costing the city and taxpayers a small fortune! Opps – a BIG fortune! Did you not ask yourself what has the city failed to do all these years that SHOULD be done PRIOR to spending $55 MILLION?! This reminds me of the ‘fear’ campaign George W put in the hearts of many lemmings – the terrorists are coming, the terrorists are coming! – give up your constitutional rights for your safety…poppycock!
    Let’s talk about all the vacant properties in town! For instance the 4 or 5 buildings at the Casa Marina whose employees could be living in those units if renovated – but NO they are taking up other valuable housing and those buildings have been sitting empty for as long as I can remember! Or how about all the vacant Navy housing – let’s work with the Navy to put Navy personal there to free up housing in KW those military members are living in! And how about the city incorporating into their LDR’s 30% affordable housing into RE-DEVELOPMENT!
    Let the City DO SOMETHING logical in reference to affordable housing and THEN we can talk about spending money on further projects!
    VOTE NO on Peary Court! There and many other ideas and projects to implement before we go spending $55 MILLION!

  4. How about building a heap of new ACTUALLY AFFORDABLE Key West Housing Authority rental housing on ALL OF Truman Waterfront, instead of building a $58 million new park, which will generate no revenue and have significant ongoing maintenance costs, right next door to beautiful Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, which costs the city nothing.

    Use the $10 tourist tax money and the $58 million not spent on the new park for a new truly affordable rental housing on Truman Waterfront, and anywhere else the city already owns land, such as the Easter Seals property, the Mosquito Control property, Poinciana, the acre or so in front of the Steam Plant condominiums, Rockland Key, etc.

    It’s not the city’s job to provide housing for middle class workers, whose employers are not paying them a living wage, which is what the city purchasing Peary Court will do.

    At the Democratic Party’s affordable housing forum the other night was a fellow who had been the city manager of Aspen, Colorado. He said they had the same problem there 20 years ago, and the only way they were able to solve it was wealthy Aspen residents created a fund out of their own pockets for housing Aspen workers could afford. That’s how they subsidized their worker housing and solved Aspen’s affordable housing shortage. He meant that was what Key West needs to do, as well.

    That fellow was God’s ringer at the forum – out of the blue, he burst the bubble the Peary Court promoters had blown. As did citizen speakers who said the subsidizing should not be done by the city, but by local businesses and the city government and the school district raising their workers’ pay, so they can afford to live here.

    Those, folks, were capitalistic solutions.

    Preaching the city should provide housing for its middle class workers is socialism, or communism.

    Let’s get real. The city would not come to a grinding halt if, say, every person living in Peary Court today suddenly were abducted by aliens and never heard from again. But if that happened to the city’s street cleaners, or to Waste Management’s sanitation workers, the city would be uninhabitable in one week. So the street and sanitation workers are the city’s most important and probably the city’s lowest paid workers.

    For a very long time government has subsidized housing for the poor segments of society, because capitalism was out of its depth there. But for the government to do what capitalism itself is supposed to do, well, according to every Republican I ever knew, and most Democrats, that’s socialism, or communism.

    However, if you truly think the world will end if the city doesn’t buy Peary Court using financing it does not have and really doesn’t know what might look like, if it even exists, then lean on your city mayor and city commissioners, like with their arms twisted up behind their backs to the breaking point, to put their new homeless shelter at the soon to be vacated city transit bus terminal property across Palm Avenue from Peary Court, and watch the value of Peary Court plummet, then make the current carpetbagger owners an offer that will allow the city to actually charge truly affordable rents.

    Meanwhile, if you haven’t yet seen Michael Moore’s “Where to Invade Next”, now showing at Tropic Cinema, go see it ASAP, and find out how other countries take care of their own in ways that make the American brand of capitalism and government look like shit, there is no other word that does it justice.

    1. Mea culpa for not mentioning what Captain Ed Davidson and I both pointed out at the recent affordable housing crisis forum is the cause of the city’s affordable housing crisis: the city and the county governments let capitalists (developers) have their way in the city and in the county. So, it is only right that the city let capitalists fix the affordable housing crisis they created for their own employees, and if the city can’t afford to pay its own employees, including police officers, fire and rescue workers, enough money to afford housing here, then the city should increase its ad valorem and lodging taxes. Likewise, if the county government and the school district cannot pay their employees a living wage, they should raise taxes. We don’t have to worry about the U.S. Military employees down here. They are provided housing on the Navy base, or are given a generous housing allowance, by the taxpayers, to live off the base. Quite a few military personnel live at Peary Court.

  5. Sloan makes a good point. the last thing Key West should do is buy Peary Court to provide military housing or accommodations for people who make more money than would allow them to qualify for housing under the guidelines, yet these existing tenants would be protected according to the PAC literature.

    Just how many of the units are occupied by people who would qualify to live there under affordability guidelines?

  6. I see that Commissioner Weekley is hosting a community meeting to address the pros and cons of purchasing Peary Court.

    Which hat will he be wearing,,, his city commissioner hat, or his hat as Chairman of Housing First, the Political Action Committee (PAC) supporting the purchase.

    Sounds like it will be a rather one-sided presentation.

  7. I can thing of many better ways to spend it. How about spending it on the people that paid it. The money should be used to promote tourism. Perhaps to clean up the beach or even create a private nudist portion of beach with fencing or bushes to keep it out of view of the offended. Use it to help with the soon to be battle with Cuba over attracting tourists. In return it creates more jobs and tips. Maybe even some of it to help the KWPD as tourists do create a heavy load for that department. It dam sure should not be used to help with housing for moderate income workers.

    Legally not sure if misuse could be charged. I don’t mind a bit paying the tax if used for right purposes .

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