Monroe County will be talking traffic at the next commission meeting

Holly Merrill Raschein, Mayor for Monroe County, joined Good Moring Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on in the county.

Traffic always seems to be an issue somewhere in the Keys.

Raschein said, “That is something that we’re going to be discussing as part of an overall big picture chat about the hurricane evacuation models. We’re going to have our regular county commission meeting next week. It’ll be Wednesday at 9 am at the Murray Nelson Center and that is one of the agenda items. There’s so many moving parts, and I feel like I’m being repetitive because when I talk to people about this, that’s kind of my go to, and we’ve got to talk about infrastructure, those bottlenecks in Islamorada, the backups that you’re experiencing on Big Coppitt and Stock Island.”

Water lines are being replaced and the project is ongoing.

Raschein said, “These are all components that have to be considered. You may have seen the Miami Herald article that says the state will give out 8000, building permits or whatever to the Keys and you’re like, oh, my gosh, 8,000 new homes in the Keys? Well, that’s not really the case, we’re going to sort of unpack it one item at a time. A lot of those parcels that are considered in that that big number are extremely environmentally sensitive. Homes probably shouldn’t be built on many of them. So how many is that? We drill down on that number, take those out of consideration, then you’ve got the tier two units, how many of those are going to be considered? Then of course, the prize items are those market rates. How many are left after we take the others off the top? We’re going to be discussing that. I think that there was some consternation over the timeline, like we had to rush, hurry up and get something to the state quickly. I don’t know that that’s the case, which makes me feel a lot better. I’m really encouraged that we’re going to have some time to be deliberative. We’re going to have some more time to hear from the municipalities, what do they think, what are they hearing in their community? What are the needs, specifically to those regions? We need to hear from community groups. There are several out there that are extremely plugged in and outspoken. Excited to continue that dialogue. I know that we are going to be making, I believe a couple tweaks to what we would like the state to consider. Mobile homes, make sure those are in the 48 hour time frame. We’ve got to consider Key West, I think that’s a no brainer. We need to look at this holistically. We’re at a point that we need to have a serious discussion. This is the future of building. This is the future of property rights in the Keys. It’s a big deal. It’s something that I know I’m not taking lightly. I know that my colleagues aren’t taking lightly. We are going to touch on it at our meeting next Wednesday.”

There’s also a possibility of a vote on the proposed development project in the Upper Keys that is on the agenda for next Wednesday.

Raschein said, “It’s a popular topic of discussion, a hot topic, if you will. My biggest concern that was sort of driving my angst, I guess, if you will, over the project was the traffic. I’m a resident. I live probably two and a half miles away and I was concerned. Now I have heard and I have not read it yet. I need to do that before next week’s meeting and get a little more information on it, that it actually came out relatively favorable. So that gives me a lot more comfort in terms of congestion. We have one highway and anything we can do or anything that developers or business owners can do to mitigate those backups I think is really critical. I think the most important part of this project is the 86 workforce housing units. I know I hear about the housing needs and we’re talking about workforce in the Keys. Maybe we consider and make a priority for first responders, nurses, teachers, the folks that really are the backbone of our community to be considered first for those for those workforce units. Obviously the Publix everybody loves a good Publix. What does that mean for the neighborhood? What does that mean for US 1 and traffic? We’re going to be discussing that.”

There will be an update on the charter county discussion.

Raschein said, “We have hired a consultant to help us message and facilitate that. He did send us a an 11 page memo that I have read the highlights on. But I need to definitely dive into that a little deeper and make sure that I’m up to speed on that. So looking forward to hearing some more input on that.”

There will be a road adaptation workshop before the commission meeting.

Raschein explained, “That’s specifically for a couple of neighborhoods, larger neighborhoods in the Upper Keys. We’re going to briefly touch on Twin Lakes. That project is a go. We’re just about to go out to bid on that. So we’ll touch again briefly on that. But I think the lion’s share of our time is going to be spent discussing Stillwright Point. That’s the neighborhood up there 105-ish, Bayside, that is extremely low lying, they have been experiencing really just terrible flooding conditions. There are some alternatives. There’s the best case scenario where we’ve got pumps and drainage, there’s the status quo, let’s do nothing. Then there’s the band aid option, let’s just pave the road and worry about the drainage later. Then there’s a sort of halfway option where we discuss French drains and things like that. So we are going to be taking a look at those alternatives. We’ve got our resiliency department, our engineering department, roads, our consultants that help us out in this in this arena. We’re, of course going to hear from the community and hear what they want. Do you want to wait? You want to do it, quote unquote, the right way? Do you want a band aid? What are we going to do? That should be a very robust time.”

With the legislative session coming up in January, the county will be quite busy.

Raschein said, “We’ve got to get all our ducks in a row quickly and move forward. The governor’s budget did come out. It’s quite favorable to us, which is awesome. The budget that the governor comes up with is just that, a recommendation. It’s ultimately up to the House and the Senate to figure out the details and where we’re going to be spending those precious taxpayer resources. It is a very large budget and that goes to show that Florida is doing extremely well, with regards to the economy, and jobs. But we want to make sure that we get it right down here in the Keys, where, as you know, we always mentioned, we’re an area of critical state concern. We want to make sure that we’re doing our part, whether it’s water projects, canal restoration, all of that is considered in the Stewardship funding. Land acquisition and the whole hurricane evacuation model study and ROGOs. That’s a huge part of it, getting that land bought up, taking it off the tax rolls, so that we don’t have to worry about that and it’s preserved and conserved for generations to come. So, again, so much going on. I love being in this community, because it’s never a dull day and when the legislature is in session, a lot of things can happen.”