Let’s check in with Islamorada

Summer doesn’t slow down anything in Islamorada — in fact it’s quite the opposite. 

Mark Gregg, Village Councilman for Islamorada, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5Fm this morning to talk about issues facing the village. 

Islamorada is welcoming a new Village Manager, Ted Yates, on August 1. 

Gregg said, “We’re really looking forward to him getting started. We’ve had Maria Bassett filing in as our interim manager and she’s done a super, super, super good job. We have been holding back on a few longer-term projects and longer-term things that we’re considering…it’s because we want somebody to start it and to carry it all the way through to the finish.” 

Yates is already keeping in touch with members of council. 

Budget workshops and meetings are going on in Islamorada. In August there will be a series of budget workshops. 

Gregg said, “For me they’re exciting because the budget is our way of making policy statements. It sets out our priorities. It kind of forecasts what we want to do with taxpayers money as far as delivering improvements to the community and high-quality service. That is all built on the foundation of the other timely topic, which is property tax.” 

The property tax in Islamorada has two components. One is in the hands of the property appraiser’s office, which is the valuation of all the properties. 

Then the Village of Islamorada sets the millage rate. 

Gregg said, “The good news is that our property values have dramatically increased.” 

The property appraiser provides a statement in late spring that reports an assessment of all the property values in Islamorada. 

The increase in one year is more than half a billion dollars. 

Islamorada property values were at $4.2 billion. They are now at $5 billion. 

The millage rate is just about 3 mils. 

Gregg said, “I don’t know what the council’s going to do with that because obviously we have to go through the budget before we make our final millage adjustment. It does make a compelling case to reduce the millage because the overall tax that people pay will be higher. On the other hand, we have inflation to contend with, just like everybody else is dealing with and then there’s some other priorities that we need to focus on and for me, personally, I would like us to have some money set aside to acquire especially environmentally sensitive lands, lands that are not going to receive a building permit when we get to build them.”

Mini season will be coming up and will include people staying in Islamorada. 

Gregg said, “It’s the busiest time of year for us. The number one busiest week or so. People are already coming into Islamorada as we speak. A lot of folks make that a full week’s vacation. They don’t just come for the two actual diving days. We’re overcrowded, overloaded. It’s a great financial boon to our economy, but it does put a strain on our services and it does require us as residents to all be very gracious and accommodating for our visitors. We’re glad to see them come, but we’re also glad to see them go once this is over. We’re getting ready for that as we speak. Hopefully we have a safe season where no one’s injured and good weather.” 

Mike Stapleford of KeysTalk 96.9/102.5 FM pointed out, “That highlights the fact that Islamorada like a lot of the cities in the Keys are smaller municipalities, but they have to have the infrastructure to support a large influx of people and this weekend is no exception to that.” 

The fills has been an ongoing topic for Islamorada. A discussion at last week’s Village Council meeting resulted in the decision to do nothing as far as removal of the existing barriers and tapes and cones. 

Gregg said, “Which we all agree are unsightly, but it seems as though we did some investigation with the sheriff’s department and our staff. If we were to remove those, the deterrent effect that they’re currently having would be gone and with mini season coming up and then we have the opening of regular lobster season the first week of August and then followed by Labor Day, it just didn’t seem like a really good idea, so we voted to just keep things moving along the same with the barriers in place until we come up with our final plan.” 

Council is still trying to decide if the fills need the metal barricades or guard rails along the side of the road. Depending on the kind of improvements that are installed, they may be required. 

Public input is welcome on the fills. 

On August 15, Village Council will have a special call meeting to discuss land regulation. With the reduction in building permits, council wants to look at redevelopment and how to do that. 

Gregg said, “Also to discuss about acquiring environmental properties and how we’re going to do that, rank them, score them, and pay for them and value them.”

The meeting at 3 p.m. that Monday will be mainly a discussion. There likely won’t be votes taken. 

Gregg said, “For sure it’s going to be interesting and it’ll kind of look forward instead of looking backwards and it’ll help us to freshen our code to make it relevant to where we are now as to where we want to go in the future.”