Let’s talk insurance rates, noise ordinance and details of the upcoming City Commission meeting in Key West

Key West Mayor Teri Johnston joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on in the city.

Citizens Property Insurance is raising rates in Key West.

Johnston said, “We have the strongest building codes in the state of Florida and we have for many, many years. So our damage with any impending storm is minimal compared to the rest of the state that has more lenient building codes and we have been rewarded by being given the highest rates in the states many times over.”

Recently Citizens Property Insurance has said anyone who has wind storm insurance must also have flood insurance, even if the home isn’t in the flood zone.

Johnston said, “That creates another expense and another hurdle for our young families that are trying to get into home ownership in Monroe County and the city of Key West. Years ago Citizens Property Insurance, we had them on a glide path that they could not increase rates over 10 percent. They have now disregarded that and are now creeping up to 11 percent, 12 percent up to a cap of I think 15 percent they’re going up to. It’s just unbearable and it makes it impossible for young families to get into home ownership in Monroe County. We certainly need a change.”

Lobbyists are working on the rates with Citizens Property Insurance.

Johnston said, “We’re just not getting a fair shake in Monroe County at all.”

A number of people are opting to rent instead, but that can also be quite costly, especially with what is needed to move in – including a security deposit and a number of month’s rent.

There is a bill in the state legislature to give landlords the ability to take a monthly fee in lieu of a security deposit. If that passes, it could help with the upfront rental costs.

Johnston said, “This falls right in line with our Move in Assistance Program that we passed on a second reading last commission meeting that gives the first month’s rent and the deposit. We will pay that up front for the residents if you can prove that you are working in the city of Key West and living here. That’s a pay back program over three years if you’re above a certain AMI. If you’re below 80 percent AMI, then it is zero percent interest. We’re trying to get people those monies up front so you can afford to rent in the city of Key West to keep our labor force strong.”

The City Commission will meet tomorrow night where the agenda has 29 items.

One item is the city will be asking for BPAS (Building Permit Allocation System) units for Caroline Street, where workforce housing will be added.

The second reading of the Single Use Plastics bill will also be heard.

Johnston added, “We are moving forward with that parking agreement. If you watched the City Commission meetings, you know we had a disagreement with the Marker. We had a parking agreement, which was part of their major development plan, an agreement that was embedded in there that has according to our legal department has not been abided by by the Marker. So we are coming to an agreement there.

The city is due almost $400,000 in parking fees in arrears.

A one way street agreement will be discussed for A Street and Olivia Street.  

Johnston said, “This is one of many one way streets that we are going to be creating in the city of Key West based on the fact that our streets are so narrow and they do not function as two way streets. We’d like to make several of them one way, which will create as much parking as we had with two way. It allows the fire truck to get up and down there and it allows for easy traversing of that street.”

There will be an update on House Bill 1317, which prohibits local governments from being able to prevent demolition of certain historic projects that are within a half a mile of the coast, which is most of Key West.

Johnston said, “We got a lot of individuals writing in objecting to that house bill. Our lobbyists are working very hard and they believe they have a carve out for the city of Key West and Monroe County. So that bill looks like it will not impact us based on the work of our lobbyists.”

Upcoming workshops for the noise ordinance will be also be held.

Johnston explained, “We’ve had an incredible number of complaints. As you know Key West is a very small, compact town. We have allowed mixed use, which means we allow commercial properties to come in to the middle of a residential neighborhood and when you do that you certainly have to handle your business with a certain degree of respect for the neighborhood.”

Complaints of loud music well into the evening and morning hours have come into the city commission.

Johnston said, “I think everybody accepts a certain amount of noise and a certain amount of activity, no matter if you’re in a residential or commercial area, but some of these areas have just taken it a little bit too far.”

The decibel levels will be looked at and whether people who are opening businesses are respecting the neighborhood.

Johnston said, “We’re going to hear from businesses. We’re going to hear from residents. We’re going to hear from tourists. We’re going to see whether we need to revamp those decibel levels of our noise ordinance. It’s been almost 10 years since we’ve taken a look at that, so it’s time.”

A workshop will be held for residents at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, May 3.

A workshop will be held for businesses at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 15

A workshop for both residents and businesses will be held at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 24.

All workshops will be held in Commission Chambers at City Hall, so mark your calendars to have your voices heard.

Water quality is an important issue in the Keys.

Johnston said, “The Department of Health tests our water quality at our beaches every two weeks. I just want people to be aware the reason that the city of Key West has gotten so interested in water quality is that our beaches have had poor water quality for the past several weeks. We just want people to be aware. There is signage on our beaches. Please be aware of the water quality before you go swimming and that’s the reason that we are going to continue to test to find out where the pollution is coming from so that we can eliminate it and have pristine waters on our beaches and our near shore water.”

For tomorrow night’s city commission agenda, click here:  http://keywest.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=1100958&GUID=CB26A7A8-EE21-47DB-960F-FFCA54EDC4DD&Options=&Search=