MARATHON — The Monroe County Commission, which met in Marathon last week, postponed voting on setting up a new zoning district for Roy’s Trailer Park on Stock Island, after Stock Island residents complained the issue should be voted on in Key West.
The commission, which meets next month in Key West, agreed to vote on the proposal in May because the park’s attorney, Bart Smith, could not make the February meeting in Key West.
In May, the commission will hold a public hearing on the creation of the boundaries of the “Stock Island Workforce Subarea” at the current site of 108-unit Roy’s Trailer Park. The goal would be to limit the permitted uses of the subarea to deed restricted affordable housing units and eliminate allocated density and nonresidential floor area, but provide “for the conversion and transfer of market rate ROGO (Rate of Growth Ordinance building allocations) exemptions to transient,” the proposed ordinance stated.
The county’s Planning and Environmental Resources Department recommends approval of the proposed text amendment but with the edits recommended by the department’s staff, the backup materials stated.
Included in those materials for the meeting is a report by a group of real estate consultants hired by the owner of the park to justify removing the current residents of the park.
About 70 residents have filed a lawsuit challenging the proposed demolition and redevelopment of the park, citing a lease agreement that runs through 2027.
The owner of Roy’s Trailer Park, Michael Browning, issued a letter to the park’s tenants on May 16 alerting them to the redevelopment of the park into apartments. Browning told residents they could be placed on a list at the neighboring Wreckers Cay apartments, which are currently under construction on Stock Island.
Browning is in conversations with Stock Island waterfront property owner Roger Bernstein about using all or some of the units that would keep units market rate and be used for vacation rentals or long-term rentals, Smith said. Bernstein owns property on Safe Harbor, which is being used for commercial fishing purposes.
In other action, commissioners approved a resolution calling on the federal government to provide the necessary resources to address the influx of migrant arrivals in the Florida Keys. County Mayor Craig Cates sponsored the resolution.
Cates thanked Gov. Ron DeSantis for activating the Florida National Guard to help handle the number of Cuban migrants coming into the Keys, as the chain of islands has seen an increasing number of migrants crossing the Florida Straits to make landfall here. DeSantis’ executive order allows the county to be reimbursed for money it expends responding to the migrant crisis, Cates said.
The number of Cubans attempting to cross the Florida Straits and enter the United States has declined considerably since a surge during the Christmas and New Year holidays, and the U.S. Coast Guard has repatriated more than 1,000 Cubans within the past week.
DeSantis signed the order directing the National Guard to assist the Keys after the total number of Cuban migrants from Dec. 30 to Jan. 2, was 427 at Fort Jefferson, 59 in the Marquesas and 326 in the Keys, according to U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. John Beal.
Commissioner Michelle Lincoln raised concerns about the environmental impacts of homemade vessels, called chugs, are having on the local ecosystem. The county has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years on removing derelict vessels from local waters and now is having to deal with an increasing number of abandoned chugs.
While there has been a drop in Cuban migrant landings in recent weeks, the resolution reminds the federal government that there needs to be a long-term plan, if and when the National Guard leaves and the landings continue, Commissioner Holly Raschein said.