Looking into the sound ordinances are NOT an effort to squash creativity in the Keys

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.

Noise ordinances have been the talk of the town for the last few weeks. There have been two meetings recently to discuss the issue, both of which have been well attended.

Johnston said, “It’s been over nine years since we took a look at our sound ordinance. As you know, Key West has changed radically in that nine-year period of time. We wanted to set out and get some input.”

Al Childress, city manager, set up three separate workshops at three different times to allow the opportunity for people to attend.

Johnston said, “We’ve been getting really good comments. Some of the misconceptions are that we’re trying to get rid of music, that we’re trying to shut music down earlier, that we are trying to squelch creativity in Key West. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, we are a very creative community and I think most people realize the vast majority of the commissioners supported the amphitheater and have been active supporters of creative events in the city.”

One of the issues can be when businesses come into a community.

Johnston explained, “If you’ve lived in a neighborhood for 30 years and all of a sudden, either a restaurant appears and bar or they’ve changed their venue. They changed it from quiet guitar music to a band. That has a real effect on our residential neighborhoods. So in an effort to balance our quality of life and our economy, we’re sitting down and we’re listening to all sides of this group.”

Recommendations on the current sound ordinance will be made and the city commission will debate it.

One more workshop will be held at 5 p.m. on May 24 in City Hall to talk about the sound ordinance.

Cruise ships are also an issue that have come back around in terms of the lease.

Johnston said, “Last night based on late night meetings, a recommendation was made to the city commission to take no action. They have no opinion on this issue. We had a number of residents speak last night very concerned about the fact that this footprint is being increased both in width and in length. This comes right back to the citizens’ request not to bring in bigger ships.”

This technically began in October 2013 when residents decided not to widen the channel or even study widening the channel to bring in bigger ships.

Johnston pointed out, “This has been a community issue for quite some time.”

Last night, it was decided that it’s not really up to the city of Key West to make a decision on the cruise ship lease – it’s actually the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the trust fund that makes the call.

Johnston said, “That board is made up of the governor, the attorney general and the secretary of agriculture. Because we are adjacent to Pier B, they’ve reached out and asked us for comment. So last night it was an element of compromise. Don’t comment because we don’t have final say on that issue.”

Electric buses are coming to Key West.

Johnston said, “The state has given money to 13 counties and fortunately Monroe County was one of those counties and it is specifically to convert diesel powered buses to all electric buses. I am so excited about that. It’s going to lower our emissions, it’s going to be a quiet bus and it just brings us into an environmental era that we want to be in.”

The city has until 2025 to bring the first electric bus into the fleet.

The public can view all the information given to the city commission on the website here: https://www.cityofkeywest-fl.gov/395/Office-of-the-City-Manager

Also, the commissioners will be moving their meetings to the second Thursday of every month, broken up into two different segments.

In the morning at 9 a.m. will be all the proclamations and consent agenda, as well as public comment. Then at 5 p.m. there will also be public comment as well as regular business.

Johnston said, “We are actually offering citizen comment at two separate levels. You’ll be able to comment both at the morning meeting, at the evening meeting. You can comment via e-comments, you can watch both sessions on our channel 76 or you can also Zoom either one of the meetings. We’re actually offering more opportunities to comment and more transparency.”

The commissioning of the USS Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee over the weekend saw a turnout of more than 2,500 people and was a real honor.

Johnston said, “It is just a great honor that the military continues to recognize Key West as one of the most military-friendly communities in the United States.”