Marathon again looks at tying affordable-housing building permits to most commercial development

Florida Keys Keynoter (Marathon, FL), 2014-07-16

July 16 --The rebounding economy and numerous ongoing development projects have put the need for affordable housing back on the city of Marathon's front burner.

Mayor Dick Ramsay has been working with Planning Director George Garrett on possible revisions to the city's land development regulations to update what Garrett called in his July 8 monthly report "an aging housing stock."

Garrett included several suggestions in that report, chief among them to "place a broader responsibility on all segments of resort and other commercial development for providing workforce housing."

"The requirement [to provide some employee housing] is only for hotels. I'm pushing for us to include commercial, especially commercial like a Home Depot , where they have multiple employees, not necessarily one or two," Ramsay said.

Garrett is out of town and was unavailable for comment, but following are his additional recommendations to the council:

--Revising the LDRs "to more clearly define the numerical requirement for providing a certain number of workforce housing units for a given level of development."

--Revising the LDRs to modify the current fees associated with the transfer of market-rate development rights from one location to another.

--Establishing LDR provisions whereby "multiple developers" share workforce housing responsibilities on single and common project sites.

Ramsay said he no longer agrees with the city's current policy allowing developers to pay the city $20,000 per unit of required affordable housing in order to get out of building it.

"I made a statement that you can't buy a decent tent for $20,000 , and I stick by that," he said.

Bill Spottswood , vice president of Key West -based developer Spottswood Cos ., is in the process of seeing a 125-room Hyatt hotel built at the former Faro Blanco Resort and Marina site in Old Town Marathon. He agreed housing is a major issue.

"I would probably say between part-time and full-time, you're probably looking at 100 employees [when the hotel is complete]. There's just not a lot of inventory in Marathon ," Spottswood said.

"As a community, we really need to figure out how to increase the affordable housing in Marathon . It's been such a great place and worked hard to get these projects going, and now all of a sudden it's, 'Where are we going to get the employees from?' he added.

Spottswood said 14 workforce housing units he's building at the Hyatt is almost assuredly not enough to alleviate concerns for future employees.

"I'm looking at trying to figure out if I can put some more there [and] I'm looking at some other properties to see where we can put some more," he said.

Garrett's suggestions were preliminary to allow for City Council discussion when it meets Tuesday. His report suggested a workshop to obtain community input.

"The greatest need for workforce housing is probably felt most by those having employees and doing business within the city," he wrote.


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