|By Christie Phillips, Florida Keys Keynoter, Marathon|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Nov. 13, 2004 - The Key West City Commission is moving forward with a moratorium that would prohibit the approval of any new hotel-to-condominium conversion projects for 180 days while city staff studies the effects of such changes on the economy and character of the island.
The moratorium, proposed by District 3 Commission Ed Scales, is set to be discussed at Tuesday's commission meeting.
"I am not making any qualitative judgment whatsoever on the issue of remodeling/conversions," Scales noted in a recent memo to City Manager Julio Avael. "In fact, conversion may prove to be a wonderful thing. I simply believe the potential ramifications of widespread remodeling/conversions are significant enough to warrant extensive study by the city."
This not only an issue in Key West. Such conversions are also occurring in Marathon, raising similar concerns in the Middle Keys city.
Scales brought up the issue in Key West in light of two recent approvals for such projects, one at the Holiday Inn Beachside, the other at the Santa Maria motel.
If the proposed moratorium passes, "City administrative staff shall not accept applications for development plans, building permits, conditional uses, variances and for any other approval by a city administrative board, other than the two projects already approved," states the ordinance. "This moratorium does not apply to ordinary renovations under building permits of transient units or to conversions of transient units to affordable housing."
During the moratorium, city staff will examine the impact changing hotel rooms to privately owned condominium suites would have on the rate-of-growth ordinance that limits the number of building permits issued, the local economy and the city's budget, the effects on ad valorem and sales tax collections, and the consequences of changing transient units to residential units with transient licenses.
"The City Commission is concerned that a trend toward such a remodeling and conversion could lead to the loss of hotel and motel rooms in a city whose main industry is tourism," notes the ordinance.
Also at Tuesday night's Key West City Commission meeting, the commission plans to: -- Consider changing the city's existing Historic District flag display ordinance to allow for one flag for every 6 feet of building frontage, instead of only one flag; and the American flag per business. District 1 Commissioner Tom Oosterhoudt is proposing the change, which would qualify commercial flags as signs and therefore make them subject to city sign code restrictions.
--Consider approving a joint agreement with the state Department of Transportation to fund half of an anticipated $1.2 million inspection and repair of the Mallory Square Pier.
--Consider granting the Rotary Club's request to install a "Welcome to Key West" sign at the entrance to the island. The proposed sign would tout the city as "Paradise U.S.A." and bear a friendly "Come again" departure message on the back for those leaving the island. The sign would cost the city nothing and be maintained by the Rotary Club.
The Key West City Commission meets Tuesday at 6 p.m. in Old City Hall on Greene Street.
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