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KONK REACTOR column
[Published in the KONK Life newspaper on February 28, 2013.]
A New Gang of 3?
Back in the 00’s, our Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) had a trio who voted YES in lockstep on any issue friendly to Keys developers. Want ROGO relief to get a project approved? SURE. Need to widen US1 to support more traffic to new developments? WE’LL DO WHAT WE CAN. Want a variance to build a big hotel in a working seaport? NO PROBLEM. They soon were dubbed the “Gang of 3”.
Nobody was surprised when they even okayed without deliberation an ordinance written by the developer’s lawyer to allow a massive Safe Harbor project! Thankfully a strong Dept of Community Affairs (DCA) rode herd on them and blocked much of their destruction. Nowadays, since our Tea Party Governor dismantled the DCA, the Gang of 3 could rape and pillage our Keys environment and quality of life at will — but all three were booted by a cautionary electorate tired of such devilment.
The other two, Sylvia Murphy and George Neugent, tried to stand up to the Gang of 3. After two elections they were joined by Heather Caruthers, Kim Wigington and David Rice. With the progressive leadership of the three ladies, the County abandoned the regressions of the Gang of 3 and struck a close balance between stewardship of our fragile resources and careful accommodation of modest development. They had a good effect on Neugent and Rice, who rarely moved away from those same principals.
But recently the tide began to turn. Kim had to leave the BOCC and is now sorely missed. In her stead, former County Clerk and good-ole-boy Danny Kolhage moved in unopposed and changed the attitude of the male side of the Commission. Soon after, the long-held principals of Neugent and Rice began to falter, as an “old boys network” begins to emerge. Is this the beginning of a new Gang of 3?
Am I over-reacting? Based on recent activity by these old boys I don’t think so, because they are already showing a severe lack of concern for long-standing sensitive issues. Sylvia and Heather are standing their ground, but now George and David, with Danny at their back, are waffling over to the dark side. And the best example of this is No Name Key.
As most of us in Keys are aware, No Name Key residents formed a Solar Community decades ago, in an area deemed as a “Coastal Barrier Resource”. The County’s comprehensive plan explicitly discourages running of public utilities to such areas, and consequently the Land Development Regulations (LDRs) prohibit them. Everyone who moved onto the Island over all this time has been aware of this fact. But facts don’t impede the developer mentality that wiggles around rules.
A deep-pockets California developer bought up several properties on No Name and proceeded to stir up visions of big increases in property values by forcing utilities out there. Over half of the existing residents decided they liked what they heard and went along with his scheme to get power poles onto the Island. Unfortunately they also sucked in a “we don’t answer to the county” contingent at Keys Energy who flexed their muscles by unilaterally defacing the island with poles and wires.
Wisely the County stood their ground, but now the proto-Gang-of-3 is poised to be bullied into ignoring the law and letting the squeaky wheels get away with their scheme to run up property values at the expense of our barrier resources. They’re psyching themselves up by claiming the LDR’s ”prohibit” is incompatibly different than the comp plan’s “discourage”. Oh reeeally. They’re claiming that “discouraging it for a long time” is enough to meet the plan, so they can allow it now. Oh REEEALLY now!
Come off it guys. Man up and do the right thing – don’t sell out our beautiful Keys to the fast buck bullies. Again.
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