Lower Matecumbe Key


February 12, 2018

The February 12 meeting of the Lower Matecumbe Key Association was held at the library.  Village Manager, Seth Lawless, spoke to members about the status of Village issues and the goals for the coming year as listed below:

The cleanup and repairs from the damage of Hurricane Irma will cost the Village approximately $9 million overall in Islamorada.  This includes some canal restoration that will be started soon.  Of that, the Village is anticipating that $8 million will be reimbursed from other government agencies and insurance, though that process will take time.

The Village was fortunate to have reserves but the storm did wipe out those reserves.  The manager indicated that he will be proposing a budget for the Village Council to consider that will increase the millage rate in order to reestablish the reserves.

Work to be done – the soccer field will be re-sodded soon.  That process will take about six weeks and then another month before the field can be used.

 Work to restore Anne’s Beach will be going out for bids shortly. They plan to put in a new boardwalk and need to connect to the village sewer system. A funding source has been identified.  There is available space at both the north and south end of the park where additional parking can be provided. Plans have not been finalized.

Approximately half of the motel/hotel rooms are still unavailable in Islamorada (650 not yet opened).  While areas further south in the Keys had more significant damage to properties, Islamorada suffered the greatest economic damage of all areas of the Keys. It is expected that Cheeca will be back in business in March.  The Islander (oceanside) is doing a total rebuild and anticipate they won’t be opened until September or October.

The new Publix in Islamorada is expected to open just before Memorial Day weekend. The storm had no impact on their work schedule.

A major new focus at the Village… that has taken a lot of planning … the Village has canceled the sewer management contract with an outside company and will be managing sewer maintenance in house.  The actual people that were doing the maintenance for the Village under contract will now be employed by the village, saving a quarter of a million dollars!

Founders Park has a new director: Maria Bagiotti.  There are some new programs being initiated and the manager suggested we review the monthly schedule as they are making an effort to provide more opportunities for community involvement.  There is a new youth council and they are providing more things to do particularly for high school students.

One issue that will impact all of us who vote in Islamorada:  The council is expected to place a change in the height restriction on the ballot in November. The height of structures in Islamorada is in the charter and can only be changed by a vote of the citizens here.  The new height request will be to increase the height from 33 ft to 37 or 38 ft – result of rising sea level.

Those that watch the council meetings on TV….  The equipment is old and the transmission is not as good as it could be.  The village plans to rebuild the system.  The Village is also considering other events that could be televised on community TV.

Sea Oats Beach… the electric company, the village, the county and the Florida Department of Transportation are all working to find a way to improve the situation at this location when there is a storm.  Everything is on the table including the possibility of raising the road. The one thing that is definitely to be done is the moving of the power poles from the ocean side of U.S. One to the bay side of the highway.

The sand pile on the bay side – the sand was collected, cleaned and filtered. It is considered a valuable asset worth tens of thousands of dollars.   It will eventually be used to restore the turtle nesting beach but it is likely to take several years for the plan and permitting to be ready for that effort. Until used, they will probably fence it in.  

Another major concern in Islamorada is the need for deed restricted affordable housing.  It is believed that rentals are the most effective type.  The Village plan to have some units built near Woods Ave near the schools on land they own. They are also working with the Monroe Land Authority to acquire the land just north of Theater of the Sea to construct 16 rental units.

The canal restoration will be addressed soon.  They plan to do a sonar read of all the canals to find out what debris is in the village canals.  While they do not plan to do any dredging, they plan to remove debris down as far as 14’.  Currently they are looking for locations along canals where a barge can offload the debris for staging before removal from the area.

A question was asked about the mobile home parks across from Executive Bay on Plantation Key… San Pedro.  The infrastructure at those parks was destroyed by the storm… no electric, water or sewer.  When they rebuild, all units must be elevated.  

Other issues brought up by residents –

Will the wide areas from the highway to the edge of the right of way on the bay side of the island be filled?  While the mounds of debris were removed following the storm, much fill was removed as well leaving deeper grading that may hold water in rainy season.  Mr. Lawless said he would meet with the homeowner in the morning to look at the area himself and assess the situation.

The right of way had much of the remaining debris removed during the Friday highway cleanup coordinated between the Islamorada Foundation and the Village Public Works department.  FDOT apparently has no plan to restore any vegetation in the areas that are nothing but dirt.  It is their practice when they do sod in the right of way to only sod the first 2 feet closest to the highway.  There is a much wider area of dirt in most locations on Lower Matecumbe.  The village plans to hydro seed (not sod) when we get closer to rainy season. That process sprays seed in water with some nutrients so that the seeds, then grass, grow very quickly.  When asked if this might be an opportunity for another joint project like the cleanup, Mr. Lawless welcomed the idea of community working with the local government  to help restore green to the right of way.  He did not sound optimistic that FDOT would help.

Mr. Lawless demonstrated that he is willing to work with the residents of the island and the village to help resolve issues and did suggest that those who have specific concerns can call him and he will check into the issues.