Marathon is welcoming the regional director of the EPA

George Garrett, City Manager in Marathon, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on in the city.

A group is out in Boot Key Harbor today with the regional director of EPA.

Garrett said, “She’s from Atlanta. Tomorrow at City Hall, although representing the entire Keys in the sanctuary, the city will be hosting the water quality protection program steering committee, which is an integral part of what the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is all about. So the regional director of EPA is a co chair of that group with the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection with the state. So we are doing sort of what I’m going to call the dog and pony show here, both before and after that meeting. She’s here for the week and we’re showing them progress in terms of water quality protection. I know they’re going to be looking at coral nurseries and so on and so forth.”

The Marathon Seafood Festival will be held this weekend.

Garrett said, “I will certainly be there in two capacities, maybe three. One, obviously as the city manager, and I’ll be spending some time at the city’s booth just handing out information. Then the other part of that will be part of the Rotary Club of Marathon. We have a booth and I think I’m also the chair of Crane Pointe Hammock. I think they’re right next door to the Rotary booth. I’m going to be there for a good part of the weekend. I hope everybody comes out and enjoys what looks like a great weekend and entertainment and food and seafood and a lot of booths.”

The hotel ordinance has also been a topic of discussion in the city.

Garrett said, “That was discussed in a workshop and the outcome of the discussion was it created a modified draft ordinance that is complete. In fact, it’s actually virtually the same ordinance we showed to them in the workshop last week. That will be coming forward for a first public hearing officially at the meeting on the 12th of March. Then of course, again, for a second public hearing after that. What the city council ultimately agreed they would accept or be willing to support was a very little modification to the existing ordinance, which does allow the consolidation of old hotel rooms, in redeveloping the old hotel rooms, from one to two or three bedroom units in the reconstruction. So basically, we’re going to leave the existing ordinance alone. It was drafted almost 20 years ago, something that no staff member on city staff right now had anything to do with. We’re doing some cleanup on that ordinance, which doesn’t change anything really about its impact. So that is an ordinance that is in effect and has been in effect for almost 20 years throughout the city of Marathon. So that’s the outcome of that, in particular, again, you’ll see that first hearing next Tuesday. Now, the controversy had to do with how that might affect the approved golf course project here in Marathon. That’s for a hotel and about 15 I think three bedroom units, as I recall, separate from the hotel, and all of which will be utilized as essentially hotel rooms, even though they might have three bedrooms. The 15 three bedroom units or multiple bedroom units would be very much like we see a Tranquility Bay here in Marathon which was approved and built almost 20 years ago. So a very similar sort of model. I think the big concern about the folks that were at the workshop meeting that certainly they were speaking to the ordinance itself was the concern that what may come out of the golf course project itself is something different than an 18 hole golf course. That is completely absolutely different than anything having to do with the hotel/motel ordinance. There is an approved development agreement approved in 2014. Nothing has changed about that approval. Right now the project has approvals to build a hotel, and 15 multi bedroom units along the waterfront of that project site. No changes have occurred, the approvals still incorporate an 18 hole golf course. If, big if, capital letters IF they want to change the layout of that project, which they may or may not want to do, then they’re going to have to come back to the planning commission and city council to get those approvals.” n

Marathon is also working on the water quality issues.

Garrett said, “I’m going to say this because there’s a lot of politics out there, there’s a lot of rumor mongering, there’s a lot of whatever, but on a positive note, I want to say that the city of Marathon has, first of all, always met the obligations, at least with state law for water quality protection. We’ve in fact, really met all the federal laws until the Maui case which went to the Supreme Court. In that case, there’s some changes in how people look at the law. Of course, the city was sued under that case, so they were using that case as a premise for the issues that they believe happened in Marathon. The result of a lawsuit between FOLKS and the city of Marathon, although we would, I think, technically and academically still debate the issues with FOLKS, that’s not the question. Like many things, it’s ultimately about an outcome and solving problems and the city of Marathon and its council agreed with its acting attorney, our outside counsel, that we would put in a deep well to solve our wastewater problems based on that lawsuit. I would emphasize again, the city of Marathon was fully, five years ahead of any other jurisdiction, that had put in a new wastewater system under 99395. We were fully five years ahead. So we’ve always been proactive in this, to the contrary of some of the discussions out there in social media, but we’re continuing that in that vein of having gotten it done early. We are putting it down the deep well, and now it’s just a matter of getting the money and working out the details. So we have about five years to actually accomplish this job. The job will involve consolidating all of our wastewater flows after processed. It’ll all get moved up to a deep well and put down in a deep well, which is about 3,500 feet down.”