April 5, 2018
Affordable housing took center stage at Tuesday’s Key West City Commission meeting, with separate discussions about projects and allocation rules leading to tense moments between city officials.
Sparks flew between regular combatants Mayor Craig Cates and Commissioner Margaret Romero during an agenda item directing City Manager Jim Scholl to “seek proposals, or otherwise plan for the construction of affordable workforce housing at the entire 2.62-acre parcel on College Road in an expeditious manner.”
Romero questioned ambiguities in the resolution’s wording and repeatedly asked Scholl whether the city would decide on project funding before going out for bid on the planned 104-unit, low- and very low-income project.
“What is the plan because it is not clear to me based on what’s in this resolution, or the supporting documentation?” Romero asked.
The city has outlined parameters for the project and a meeting is scheduled Thursday, April 12, with members of the Housing Authority of Key West and the city’s planning and legal departments to discuss possible financial routes, Scholl said.
“We’re going to listen to what the recommendations may be based on our desire to have low- and very low-income and then come up with a way ahead based on what we think the financial parameters will be,” Scholl said.
There are several potential funding options for the project including pursuing a bond, working with the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, Land Authority funds, disaster recovery money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development or a partnership with a private developer, Scholl said.
The resolution was solely giving direction to use the property for affordable housing and any proposals will have to come back to the commission for approval, Scholl said.
“We’re trying to get as much good information as we can to make a decision on how best to proceed,” Scholl said. “We want to capture the low- and very low-income opportunity, that’s the goal.”
When Romero continued to ask about finalizing financial parameters before sending the project out to bid, Cates broke in, telling the city clerk to start a timer on Romero which is used to control meeting length.
“You keep asking the same question and getting the same answer,” Cates said. “It can’t be answered here. This (resolution) is to allow them to use this whole parcel of land.”
Commissioners Richard Payne and Sam Kaufman said the plan remains clear and the resolution is only designed to move the project forward.
“I don’t see how this resolution could be any less ambiguous; it’s really just a formality,” Kaufman said. “We’ve only been talking about this for at least two and a half years now.”
Kaufman stressed that one-bedroom units in the low- and very low-income categories are the city’s greatest need and Scholl should report back with financial findings at the board’s May 1 meeting.
When the discussion returned to Romero, Cates again started the clock and the two exchanged words.
Romero maintained that many options have been discussed that are not included in the resolution before casting a lone no vote on the measure.