Saturday, May 12, 2007

Wisteria Island

Update: In addition to the 21 acres of land, the annexation includes 150 acres of bay bottom surrounding the island, owned by the same corporation as owns the island. That bay bottom is currently used by some boats that moor at anchor off the island.

Here is a link to the complete package of information provided to the CIty Commission in support of the annexation.

On Tuesday, May 22, the Key West City Commission will vote on second reading to annex Wisteria Island, otherwise known as Christmas Tree Island. The annexation passed last week on first reading by a 5-2 vote, with Commissioners Verge and Rossi opposing. It will take a change of two Commissioner votes to reverse the annexation decision, which seems to have been made rather hastily insofar as public participation was concerned. There are big dollars at stake. The owners of the island and some surrounding bay bottom petitioned for annexation and got the support of City Planning staff and the Planning Board. Their recommendations are based on technical factors, not political ones. If approved, the annexation will greatly increase the number of buildings permitted on the island's 21 acres, and the owners and developers are in fact proposing to build up to 168 dwelling units in the fashion of neighboring Sunset Key (formerly Tank Island).

In the City's uncertain financial condition, the prospect of 168 mostly high-end (multi-million dollar) properties added to the City's tax base may seem compelling to some Commissioners, but the public input has so far been limited to a small number of activists. Florida State Law excepts annexation from what would normally be a decision requiring approval by referendum of a majority of voters, that is the purchase or sale of public property.

There are risks associated with annexation that may not have been adequately addressed by the Commission, notably the extent to which the City will be obligated to provide municipal services to the new development at the island, which has no electric service, water and sewage.

I'm hoping at best for a delay in the adoption of the annexation ordinance by tabling at Tuesday's meeting and more public discussion before proceeding.

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