This is why ROGO and BPAS is important to EVERYONE

Kimberly Matthews, Senior Director of Strategic Planning and Libraries for Monroe County, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on in the county.

The Rate of Growth Ordinance (ROGO) and BPAS system has been the talk of the town recently.

Matthews said, “I think the most important thing to start with is why are we talking about it now? Because I’ve been surprised how many people don’t know despite the newspaper article, the radio coverage, people don’t know why we’re having this conversation right now. And that’s fine. That’s absolutely fine. That’s our bad. We just need to make sure that we explain it, which is that every 10 years in relationship to the census, the Department of Commerce is tasked by state statute with reevaluating the hurricane evacuation model with new census data and so they did that as a result of the 2020 census. They came out, people may remember there was this random list of, hey, the Department of Commerce is going to be here, they’re going to talk about some hurricane stuff. To be fair, a lot of people were like meh. But the thing about it was, as a result of that, then what happens is they make a recommendation to the administrative core that is in the Administrative Committee that works for the governor of whether or not we should readjust the ROGO allocation for the Florida Keys.”

As a result of the 2010 census, an additional 3,250 ROGOs were allocated.

Matthews continued, “So here we are, we find ourselves after the 2020 census, they’ve done exactly the same thing, per statute per their norm. This time, they’ve asked us, hey, what are you guys thinking? So what we’re doing is we’re asking community. We want to go out there, and we want to see what the community thinks. We want them to weigh in on this, because everyone has a really vested interest. Some of the listeners may be thinking, oh, well, I live in a city, this isn’t really my problem. I live in unincorporated area, this isn’t really my issue, because this is an unincorporated Monroe issue. Well, it’s really, it’s all of our issue. Number one for hurricane evacuation. Because obviously, those folks who need to get out of the Florida Keys during a hurricane evacuation order, if you’re in Cuba, you’ve got to troop through everybody else to get out and then you’ve got the liability of a takings case. So we are almost out of ROGOIs in the county. I believe the most recent number is we have approximately 160 market rate ROGOs, we have nine affordable ROGOs and once we exhaust those, that’s when we start to infringe on property owners rights. So if we say to somebody, hey, listen, we don’t have any more logos and for anybody who’s a little bit confused about what a ROGO is, I go to the simplest map, a ROGO is essentially the right to build on your on your vacant lot. So for the rest of the world, we don’t even think about that. I’m from Kansas, if you had a back 40, you could build 500 houses on that back 40, nobody cared. But down here, if you have a piece of property that does not have a house, that never had a house, you have to get a ROGO allocation for that property, if you don’t already have one, so that you can build a house on that. So essentially, in the incorporated areas, they call it BPAS, which is Building Permit Allocation System. That to me makes a little bit more sense. It defines it a little bit better. So once you get that building allocation, if you don’t get that building allocation, say I own a piece of property, and I want to build a house on it, my piece of property may be worth a couple hundred thousand dollars, but if I build a house on it, wow, that that piece of property is worth a lot more, not only to me while I live on it, but also to sell it. So if the county or the government tells me that I can’t build on that lot, I’m probably going to sue the government and say, hey, listen, you’ve now taken my property rights and that’s called a takings case. At that point, not only do all of our not only incorporated areas, but unincorporated areas, all of our property owners through their property taxes are now going to help us cover that cost of not only defending those takings cases, but also if they were to be successful, which five have been since 1986, they’re going to help us pay for that. So it’s in everybody’s interest to weigh in on what do they think about this? Would they rather have additional building permits? Would they rather pay for these takings cases and defending those takings cases? Hopefully, many of them will be successful at defending. What do they want to do? So that’s why we’re having this conversation right now. Because come December, our Board of County Commission has to make a recommendation to the state about what they think we would like to do.”

Does the state have to take that recommendation?

Matthews said, “You know, the state is a state. I would never presume to say what they can and can’t do, but I would assume that they can absolutely make their best judgment and they can make their own decision and they could certainly overrule whatever it is we ask them to do.”

Initially, there were apparently about 8,000 developable lots or parcels in the county. Now that number is down to about 2,220. What about those 5,780 that were left out?

Matthews said, “I don’t claim to be a planner, I may be a strategic planner, but I am not a planner planner. Emily Schemper is our Senior Director of Planning and Environmental Resources. She and her team went through that, and what they were able to establish from the original throw out from the state, which said, hey, listen, you have this many developable lots, and I would actually refer to them as a vacant parcels. You have this many vacant parcels. Our team went through and for unincorporated Monroe came to a number that was more like 2,220 that were actually reasonably developable. Now, can I speak to how many of those have a legitimate takings case? I cannot. That would be for the legal team to fight over for I’m sure many years to come. But I certainly think that taking that 8,000, down to 2,220, is a much more palatable number. But that said, that’s market rate ROGOs and that’s not necessarily affordable housing. What we need to also factor in here is that we have studies that show us that we are lacking about 5000 missing housing stock, those that would house our teachers, our police officers, our firemen, those kind of folks who keep our world up and running and safe. So we need to factor in whether or not we also want to make sure that not only do we cover those 2,220 market rate vacant parcels where somebody has a legitimate right to build on that we would usually issue them a ROGO, but do we also want to make sure that we keep a few back, so that we can build some affordable housing units and workforce affordable units, so that we make sure that we continue to have enough firefighters and teachers, so that we can continue to have a quality of life down in the Florida Keys that isn’t just a Martha’s Vineyard. We don’t want to be that. We don’t want to be a place where people just come down and there’s no real life down here. There’s no going to the grocery store or going to the park to watch your kids play Little League. We want to have that community. We want to have that aspect to our living down here and if we don’t have places for people to live, affordably, we’re not going to have that.”

Is there any sense of where the public is on this?

Matthews said, “I think it’s a little bit too early because I’ll be doing this through the end of August. So I carved out a nice long chunk of time to make sure that I could visit with as many groups as possible. I already have more groups booked than I did during the strategic planning and I would say anyone within the sound of my voice, please go to the county website. My email address is on there. Send me an email. If you would like for me to come to your group, and I love to cite this, Michelle Lincoln once said that if you stand still long enough, Kimberly will give you a PowerPoint. Yes. 150%. If you want me to come to your group, give your group and I don’t care if it’s a book club, I don’t care if it’s a homeowners association, does not matter to me, if you can gather a group of people in your living room, I will come and I will do a presentation on these issues. I will answer as many questions as I possibly can. I will take additional questions and I will send them to anybody that can answer those appropriately. I’m not going to answer questions that I don’t know the answer to. Because this is a really deep topic with a lot of information. We’ve got attorneys, we’ve got planners, we’ve got hurricane evacuation specialists, our emergency management team, and those folks all have a piece to play in this. So I would love to come to your organization, I would love to come to your group, and answer any questions you have and do the presentation and gather your feedback, which anytime I do one of my presentations, I use the software that literally every word you type, including your spelling errors, I take it out, and I dump it right into a report. The last one was 500 and some odd pages on it I did for the county commission and it goes right at the county commission. They can read exactly what you said, and exactly what you want them to know.”

There are also surveys on the county website.

Matthews said, “We are doing a series of online surveys, they’re going to build and evolve. We finished up our survey number one. We had over 1800 people respond to that survey, which is, in my experience with surveys is amazing. It’s an amazing response. We hope to do by the time this is all said and done, we hope to do at least six surveys. They’ll be everything from housing to ROGO specific to takings information to hurricane evacuation and getting feedback from people about how they evacuate during a storm. All things that are going to make even not just this issue, but a lot of different things in the county, they’re going to really inform how we move forward. If you live in the incorporated area, and you think that this is not an issue that involves you, please, please, incorporated areas, it’s vital that they chime in on this because everyone at the end of the day is going to be affected by the decisions that are made here.”

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