Monroe County is hard at work on ROGOs and hurricane evacuation modeling

Kristen Livengood, Public Information Officer for Monroe County, joined KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on in the county.

Today started off with a workshop in Key Largo.

Livengood said, “This is starting off our first of our many, many, many, many meetings we’re going to be holding over the next few months regarding ROGOs. We’re calling it the robust public process that’s starting. In a couple of months, we’ll also have Kimberly Matthews, she is our strategic planner, she’ll be going out to civic work organization, the Rotary Clubs, the Chambers and all those things. She does this interactive process where she has questions and the answers all populate on the screen. So it’s just a really, really good process where we’re able to really gauge what the community’s thinking.”

Surveys will also be distributed.

Livengood said, “This is just such an important thing that’s really going to shape the future of Monroe County and we want to make sure that we’re really touching all the people here in the county to make sure that that we can find where that sweet spot is where we don’t want 8,000 ROGOs, but maybe we can’t do zero ROGOs either. There’s got to be a spot in the middle, where hopefully, everyone can come to a compromise and everyone can be happy. There’s a lot of legalities that are attached to the ROGO issues as well, when it comes to these takings cases, that the county taxpayer could potentially be on the line for in the future if someone’s told that they can’t build on their property, they need to be fairly compensated for that property. Having those ROGOs available, could help with those future takings cases. But then we also have our infrastructure issues. There’s just a lot of variables that come around these rate of growth units, and we just want to make sure that we can come to a median where everyone can be, maybe not happy, but at least can be accepting of it.”

The number of vacant lots that are currently in the Keys is something the county has been working on.

Livengood said, “There’s, I don’t have the number right in front of me, it’s something like 7,954. Our Director of Planning and environmental resources, she’s actually spent the last couple of months going through and quantifying each one of these properties on, okay, well, this one’s a wetland, so it wouldn’t qualify for a ROGO regardless of if one was available or not. So I think the number gets down to around 2,220 and I’m just shooting that from my hip, but somewhere around that number in unincorporated Monroe County of actual buildable lots, actual lot that would qualify for a ROGO that aren’t wetlands, that aren’t the tier that they’re not allowed to build in. So she’s going to go through her data for that. Then we’re also working with the municipalities because the municipalities need some ROGOs as well. I think Marathon’s in the 1,100 range and the Village of Islamorada is in the 700 range, but we think once you go through the buildable lots, they could be halved, or three quarters or what they need as well. So we’re just trying to find that sweet spot.”

The Florida Commerce had given the county a list of options for hurricane evacuation plans. Do we have to pick from that list?

Livengood said, “This public process that we’re going through is so that we can go to Florida Commerce, basically, in December, before they go back into the legislative session for next year, and say, hey, Monroe County that all of this public process, we’ve worked with the municipalities, and this is the number of ROGOs that we want you to give us. Because it kind of seems like when they came down here, it was kind of like, okay, what do you guys want? So we want to make sure that we go to them with as much information as possible, as much data that we’ve collected, and as much public processes available, to be able to do to say, hey, we’ve done our due diligence, this is the number that we came up with and this is why. It seems like at this point anyway, that they are very amiable to what the Florida Keys wants. That’s why we’re doing this robust public process.”

The presentations will be up on the website and social media afterwards.

Livengood said, “We want to we want to make sure everyone has that opportunity to know what it is and then to be a part of the process.”

The regular Board of County Commissioners meeting will also be held today where the group will look at a night sky proclamation.

Livengood said, “Every year obviously we have got this great place down here in the Florida Keys to be able to view the night sky actually, we have people from all over the world come down because we don’t have that light pollution that you get in big cities like Miami. Obviously down here in the Keys we don’t have as many light pollution issues as other cities. Every year we have a group of people who come down and go to Scout Key and camp out for like three days down there and they do all things stargazing. So, this night sky proclamation is just saying, hey, we continue to support having our darker skies and not having the light pollution and also, come down and see our beautiful night skies down here in the Florida Keys where you’re able to do that with a lot more ease than in a big city. And with turtles! When it was darker, the turtles on the beach, they have a lot less problems with getting washed along the way. So that’s also important.”

Traffic studies are another discussion point.

Livengood said, “We do the traffic and delay study every two years. Last year, they did it and we had those water main break and obviously, there’s some major construction going on, especially in the areas that failed. The traffic delay study is usually done in late March, early April. It’s done during the same time every single year. So if we’re going to do it, we need to do it again, right now. Since it’s done every two years, technically, the next one wouldn’t be until 2025. But after the last findings, they were like, well, let’s do another one in 2024, to see if it changes any. Well, now we’re in 2024 and those construction issues and changing out the piping and all that stuff is still happening in those same exact areas. So they’re just going to discuss today, whether or not they want to move forward with doing this traffic and delay study now in 2024 or just wait until it’s regularly scheduled in 2025. So I think that will be a robust public discussion as well.”

Housing will be another topic.

Livengood said, “We’ve got a lot of hotels down here and people who need housing for their employees. So we’re going to be talking about dormitory style housing, and we don’t have that defined anywhere that I’m aware of. So we’re just going to have a discussion about whether or not that’s allowed and what that would look like in the future if somebody wanted to do dormitory style housing for their employees.”

For the agenda today, click here: