Give your input on county future

By Steve Estes

Monroe County is hosting a series of two meetings next week to allow for citizen input into the ongoing process of rewriting the county’s comprehensive land use plan and land development regulations.

That update will supposedly carry us through the next 20 years.

And it probably will, with the usual requests for changes, changes in demographics, changes in leadership and changes for other reasons that always seem to crop up with a document that provides guidelines such as this one.

This is not the community-oriented Liveable Communi-Keys program that we have been working on for the last six or seven years that supposedly will provide a community vision for the individual islands as we move into the future.

Instead this is a broad-brush approach to try and make the things our comprehensive plan says now match the things our LDRs say now so they’ll say the same things in the future.

That’s probably a good thing.

But this will also be an exercise in feeling people out for the changes they may want  to see in how our land use is handled in the coming two decades.

And that is where the danger lies.

No input is considered wrong. No input is considered right. It is all lumped in together and the final documents can be drafted to include even the most outlandish of suggestions.

And if only the outlandish show up at the input meetings, it is the outlandish that will get the ear of those writing the final document.

So it is imperative that those interested in land use, and the wrong and right that can be done with it, show up and provide their input.

The first meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13 at the Sugarloaf fire station. The second meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15 at the Murray Nelson Government Center in Key Largo. If Marathon seems to be out of the loop that’s because it is. Marathon is an incorporated entity and as such has its own land use policies.

The same holds true of Key West.

According to the synopsis of the meetings, the purpose is to engage civic leaders and interested parties in a discussion of the concerns and issues with current land-use issues and proposed land-use issues as well as suggestions for improving same.

We will also learn where the comprehensive plan update process is right now and what the near-term future holds in the process.

Whether we realize it or not, this is a very important set of meetings. There are issues currently being bandied about that could either enhance our quality of life, or decrease our quality of life. And sometimes no one knows the difference.

Everyone’s take on the future of land use policy is important. If you want no changes, you need to say that. If you want less emphasis on regulation and more emphasis on quality of life, you need to say that. If you want more emphasis on regulation and less emphasis on quality of life, you need to say that.

This is a chance to get those who advise our elected leadership to hear your voice.

For instance, there is currently a proposal to allow maintenance dredging of privately owned sea bottom and canal bottom to either the depth of the original permit, or five feet.

This proposal has some obvious pitfalls in that canals that are too deep are part of our near-shore water quality problem because they don’t flush properly with the tidal changes. To fix that, state agencies and engineers have suggested that we backfill canals to bring the depth to the control depth of the receiving waters.

The latter makes a lot of sense. But the former seems to be at cross purposes with the latter.

And our land use policies are chock full of that type of thing. The staff wants to hear from us on which items we believe those to be.

We need to tell them.

If we fail to make our voice heard, those who make their voices heard will be those who are listened to and the rest of us will be thought to acquiesce to the common thread of thought.

And that’s never how it is around here.

Show up. Speak up. Make the case for your future vision.

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