Islamorada Council Tackles Affordable Housing and Code Changes

The Islamorada Village Council meeting focused on issues surrounding affordable housing allocations, potential code changes, and the role of the council in development review procedures. A debate ensued over the interpretation of zoning codes and the eligibility of a property fronting on US1 for affordable housing, which raised broader concerns about the council’s involvement in overriding planning department decisions and the need for clearer regulatory language.

The most contentious topic of the meeting was the discussion surrounding a property’s eligibility for affordable housing allocations due to its frontage on US1. The property owner, facing scrutiny and denial, expressed frustration with the contradictory responses received regarding the classification of their property as a single-family or duplex. The council debated the interpretation of “fronting” in the village code, with opinions divided on whether the property in question met the criteria for affordable housing. Some council members and public commenters questioned the property’s density and the validity of the application process, while others called for further clarification on the term “fronting” from the village attorney.

Amid the debate, the broader issue of potential loopholes in the village code and the desire for a decision specific to the property were highlighted, pointing to the need for a separate determination for properties along US1. This discussion led to considerations about formalizing language within the code to address inconsistencies related to frontage and affordable housing allocation.

The council also discussed potential code changes related to development review procedures. Differing perspectives emerged on the council’s role in this process. One council member expressed reservations about the council acting as an intermediary between the planning department and disgruntled developers or homeowners. This member suggested that the council should revisit the proposal after tightening the comprehensive plan and reviewing the codes. Conversely, another council member supported the proposed code change, arguing that it could prevent litigation and save the village money by offering developers an extra step to challenge imposed conditions.

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Ultimately, the council voted to move forward with the proposed code change, with the dissenting council member voting against it. The decision underscored the ongoing tension between the desire to streamline development processes and the need to maintain rigorous standards that protect the village’s interests.

Another topic of discussion was the council’s annual review of the Local Planning Agency (LPA) members. Questions were raised about the terms and appointments of the LPA members. Moreover, the Chair of the LPA provided a report on the LPA’s January and March meetings, which included changes in zoning and flume status for several properties.

Public comments touched on various subjects, including the cost and tax implications of keeping an interim manager/advisor for another month. A member of the community raised concerns about the previous management position of a certain Mr. Yates, referencing a 3-2 vote to not continue his role and discussing 27 emails in support of him, questioning the bias of the decision.

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The meeting also covered the approval of residential building permit allocation rankings and awards for the fourth quarter of 2023. The Planning Director presented the details of the affordable residential building permit allocations, including the available allocations for 2023, evaluation of applications, and the scoring and ranking process. Discussion included the reduction in available allocations and the evaluation criteria outlined in the village code.

A proposed construction project requiring two affordable housing allocations brought forth another layer of complexity. Here, the Mayor abstained from voting due to a conflict of interest but participated in the discussion. Concerns were voiced about setting a precedent for properties fronting on US1 and the need for clarity in the village’s affordable housing policies.

Finally, the council addressed administrative matters, including the need to address issues with advertising and regulations. An administrative appeal regarding the construction of a tiki hut within the required setback led to a continuance approval, further extending the time for resolution and tolling the running of fines through code enforcement.

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Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Mayor:
Joseph “Buddy” Pinder III
City Council Officials:
Sharon Mahoney, Mark Gregg, Elizabeth Jolin, Henry Rosenthal

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