Housing concerns are always on the agenda for Marathon

Officials in the city of Marathon are always looking to help the growing population in the Keys.

Robyn Still, Marathon City Council member, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s going on in the city.

Affordable housing is always an issue in the Keys.

Still said, “Obviously we have a huge issue, like everybody even across the nation with affordable housing. We’re a little bit more unique because we’re an area of state critical concern and we have some restrictions. I think that we need to all come together and start working as a community to start addressing some maybe solutions for our affordable housing issues. We need to work together with the other municipalities and with the state. One of the most important things that we need to do is lobby for home rule. The state has taken a lot of effort to take away our ability to govern ourselves. I think it’s more important and you locally can govern better than somebody from afar. We need to lobby for that home rule. We also need to remember it’s not just our Senator and Representatives that would vote on that. It’s everyone else in the state of Florida and we need to educate them to let them know why it’s important that the Florida Keys retain that home rule.”

In the Keys, the issue of limited land is critical.

Still said, “I think we need to educate them and let them know that this is why we need to be able to govern ourselves. We understand our unique situation better than somebody who doesn’t live here. I think we need to stop fighting with each other and start lobbying, not just our representatives, but the others as well. We need to work together on that.”

In fact there are 300 housing units that are in the court system.

Still said, “I can’t talk a lot about that issue because there is pending litigation, however I have complete confidence in our city attorney as well as the outside firm that’s handling that for us. They have a great legal strategy. I have complete confidence that there’s going to be a positive resolution to that. We just have to unfortunately wait a little bit longer.”

There may be other solutions for affordable housing.

Still said, “I’ve had talks about potential tax breaks for home owners to instead of vacation rental their properties to rent them to our work force, to people who are living here, to our teachers, our law enforcement, our fire fighters, our service workers. I’m not sure what the potential of that was or will be. With a new city council, we’re in the beginning stages. We are going to begin having some meetings and some in depth talks about potential solutions.”

With the new council, will there be changes?

Still said, “I think when you bring new people in, you’re bringing new ideas. I think we may move in a different direction. It’s a little early to tell. We’ve had one meeting. The very first meeting. I remember what that was like back in February when I was appointed. You’re really just kind of overwhelmed that very first meeting. I think we’ve got some fresh new ideas. I look forward to working with everyone and working together, moving Marathon forward and trying to tackle some of our issues. Our formal council did a good job tackling those issues. There’s not an easy solution to any of them, or we wouldn’t have those issues.”

Vacation rental property is another subject that will be discussed.

Still said, “The city’s come a long way and I’ve learned we can’t change our vacation rental ordinance. If we do we risk losing it, we risk losing our enforcement power and that’s absolutely not what we want. The city purchased a software in June. That software goes out and searches the internet. It pinpoints the rentals that are being advertised that have no vacation rental license, that are also being advertised as less than the minimum seven night stay. It provides booking information back to our code department. That software was up and running and to date it’s been over $20,000 worth of fines. Last month there were two separate $5,000 imposed for illegal vacation rentals. I think we just need to continue to address that. It’s not fair to the people who are following our ordinance. We have to balance our quality of life and other issues with our residents against property rights. You have the right to do what you want with your property as long as you are complying with our ordinances. All I’m asking is people need to be in compliance with the vacation rental ordinance.”

Code compliance hearings can be watched lives.

Still said, “You can see what happens. You can see the fines. You can see the entirety of the hearings. Those are pretty educational. Those are interesting. If people want to know what’s happening with those ordinances, they can watch.”

Marathon City Council will have a meeting next week. For the agenda, click here: https://www.ci.marathon.fl.us/sites/default/files/fileattachments/city_council/meeting/32335/00_agenda.pdf