Re yesterday’s the Florida Keys’ Jesus – development post, Sandy Downs told me last night that she can not wait to start enjoying The Hamptoms, No Name Key’s new name, compliments the former No Name Key environmentalists Brad Vickery and Beth Ramsay-Vickery.
Recieved at goodmorningfloridakeys.com this retort to yesterday’s post.
John is John Hammerstrom of Key Largo, mentioned admiringly in yesterday’s post.
I retorted back:
Have no problem, personally, with someone building their dream home, to live in full time on property they bought on one of the Florida Keys, if that property does not, say, flood at high tide like a number of lots do in the abandoned subdivision where I live. I suppose that is why the subdivision was taken over/bought by the State of Florida and much of it turned into a state wildlife refuge. I do not view building such a home to live in, full time as development. We don’t need any more snowbirds, though. We don’t need any more condos or subdivisions, either, evidenced by all the homes for sale, foreclosures, upside down mortgages, still falling ad valorem values, thus still falling ad valorem taxes. I hope people who want to further develop the Keys boycott the Keys, never come down here. Never even think of coming down here. Steve Estes, Publisher and Editor of the News-Barometer, of Big Pine Key, put up an excellent report in today’s Friday edition about the wrangling going on over bringing electricity out to No Name Key. The pro-get-the-key on the grid folks talk about their US Citizen rights being violated, even though they violated those alleged rights themselves when they bought or built their homes on a key they knew was totally off the grid. But do you hear them ever admit that? Not a chance. What those with eyes and ears that work know is, what fuels this group of self-created victims is they have stars in their eyes over more development on No Name Key after it gets on the grid. They see their property values jumping. Some of them see themselves doing the developing. But do you ever hear them say that? Not a chance. Au contraire, they say they have no interest in further development of No Name Key. Am going to rustle up Steve Estes’ article and add it to the reply. Steve told me maybe a year ago that around the time Brad Vickery and his wife Beth bought their home on No Name Key (Beth is daughter of Marathon City Councilman Dick Ramsay, sister of Vice-Sheriff Dick Ramsay, both of whom attended Florida Keys Aqueduct meetings when running water out to No Name Key was on the agenda), that he, Steve, had gone online and looked at the website of the real estate development company Brad worked for in California, and there was an ad promoting the big quarry near Brad and Beth’s home on No Name Key as having development potential. Just yesterday evening, I was told by No Name Key residents that Brad recently had told another No Name Key resident that they were going to turn No Name Key into the Hamptons. Anyway, I’ll be back with Steve’s article in a little while.
BY STEVE ESTES
Monroe County commissioners have agreed to join with Keys Energy in defending an action by No Name Key resident Robert Reynolds in front of the state Public Service Commission.
Reynolds filed the action shortly after local Circuit Court Judge David Audlin dismissed a declaratory action by the county asking that the court make some final determinations on the county’s authority and responsibility regarding commercial power to No Name Key.
Audlin ruled that the PSC should have jurisdiction in the matter, a ruling which has been appealed by a group of power opponents on No Name Key and by the county. That legal question is still unanswered. In his filing to the PSC, Reynolds claims that the county’s rules are discriminatory against No Name Key because of its land use regulations prohibiting commercial power to the environmentally sensitive island.
Most of No Name Key is in a federal Coastal Barrier Resource System area where federal money is prohibited to be used to further any type of development, including the issuance of subsidized flood insurance and the use of Federal Emergency Management Agency post-storm funds for debris clean up and rehabilitation.
After a lawsuit seeking commercial power was turned away by the courts in 2001, the county rewrote its CBRS policies seeking to “bring our code in line with federal guidelines,” said the Growth Management Director at the time Tim McGarry. The prohibition was put in place at that time. The prohibition affects all CBRS units in the county, of which No Name Key is one of 15.
Reynolds also claims that state statute, policed by the PSC, gives Keys Energy, the local commercial power provider, absolute right to install power grids on public rights-of-way.
The county has never disputed that public rights-of-way are carte blanche for utility development, but the route selected by KEYS for the power grid to No Name Key crosses publicly owned lands, by Monroe County, and the Board of County Commissioners has denied the use of those rights-of-way for commercial power in CBRS units.
Reynolds also claims that No Name Key cannot meet the state’s upgraded wastewater mandates without commercial power, even though the state Department of Health says that solar-powered systems and generator-run systems will meet the new standards for best available technology. All of the homes on No Name Key are powered by solar arrays or generators or a combination of both.
The filing also claims that it would be cost-prohibitive for No Name Key residents to meet the state’s sewer mandate without commercial power. The cost for systems run on generator power are approximately the same as those run on commercial power.
Reynolds’ request to the PSC, which is to mandate that Monroe County step back from its land use prohibitions against commercial power on No Name Key, claims that the language in the PSC’s statutory authority is to “encourage” the delivery of power to areas that request it. County officials sought the declaratory action from the local courts to answer a question very similar to that claim.
The county’s comprehensive land use plan uses the word “discourage” for commercial power in a CBRS. It is the enabling land development regulations that say “prohibit.” The declaratory action dismissed by Judge Audlin sought to clarify that discrepancy.
The Reynolds’ filing asks the PSC to force the county to override its own land use rules and force the county to issue building permits for residents to hook into the lines, something county officials say they cannot do right now with the existing prohibition.
That was another of the questions county officials and KEYS sought to have clarified by the courts in the declaratory action.
Reynolds also claims that running commercial power to the island would not be a violation of the CBRS prohibition because the individual homes already have private power-generation sources. The prohibition speaks only to public utilities. KEYS is defined as a public utility, over which the PSC has “rate and service” jurisdiction, according to Reynolds’ filing.
KEYS Utility Board, which earlier this month approved a line extension agreement with the 25 No Name properties seeking commercial power, has asked that the PSC dismiss Reynolds claim as moot because the line extension agreement has been signed. The filing was against KEYS. The KEYS board took the action over the recommendation of its attorney who suggested that action be delayed until the legal issues had been ironed out.
If the PSC case is dismissed, “It certainly leaves the underlying questions for another day,” said Bob Shillinger, chief assistant county attorney. Shillinger said without a court ruling negating them, the county must stand behind its land use rules.
“WE have a valid ordinance prohibiting commercial power to CBRS units that hasn’t been declared invalid by any court,” said Shillinger.
The Board of County Commissioners last week authorized the county attorney’s office to attempt to become an intervenor in the PSC case.
The PSC is being asked, said Shillinger, to declare that the county has no authority to enforce its own land use rules. The vote was unanimous to file an intervenor request in the case. If the case is dismissed by the PSC, said Shillinger, the county would have no reason to try and intervene, “But we are left with a valid
ordinance that hasn’t been ruled otherwise.”
If the county has to file briefs in the PSC case, Shillinger said the argument would be that the PSC has limited jurisdiction to handle limited issues dealing with rates and services, territorial disputes and other like issues, but that whether the county has to ignore its own land use regulations “falls outside their jurisdiction.”
On the heels of the KEYS utility board approval of the line extension agreement earlier this month, the utility immediately began work trying to re-institute the agreement it had begun last year. That agreement was put on hold until the underlying land use jurisdiction questions could be answered by the courts.
According to KEYS Spokesman Julio Barroso, KEYS has sent the project back out for bids under a Request for Proposals format.
“We can’t begin any construction on the project until we have those back,” said Barroso. “The will be about two months.”
The RFP on the street right now mirrors the one that KEYS used last year, and includes the use of the county-denied private easements for routing the power grid.
“If it turns out that we can’t use the county easements, then we can work around that and find alternate solutions,” said Barroso. “We would have to negotiate a change order with the selected contractor.” Any increase in price would be paid for by the No Name Key property owners. He added that KEYS has received a check for the estimated total amount of the project, just over $650,000, paid for by the No Name residents who want commercial power.
As part of the line extension agreement, the residents must also establish an escrow account to repair the grid in the event it is damaged by storms because the utility can’t use FEMA money in a CBRS area for that purpose.
As part of the agreement, No Name property owners are also on the hook for any legal fees KEYS incurs while litigating the various legal issues surrounding the project.
Barroso said whether that includes the utility attorneys currently working on the PSC case is “still under discussion.”
KEYS’ legal staff still has to chime in on the appeal filed by the opponents of commercial power to Judge Audlin’s ruling.
Barroso said no date has yet been set to act on KEYS’ motion to dismiss, or the underlying request by Reynolds.
When I see that kind of money thrown by private property owners at something in the Keys, in the face of a heap of opposing land development laws and regulations, I smell one thing – DEVELOPMENT. I already published that Judge Audlin had a conflict of interest and should have recused himself from the No Name Key case re Keys Energy running electricity out there. The conflict of interest lay in Audlin, before he was a judge, being a mediator in the 1991 No Name Key court case, presided over by Judge Payne. Audlin recommended letting Keys Energy run electricity out to No Name Key, and Judge Payne didn’t go along with Audlin’s recommendation. The more I hear about Robert Reynolds, the more I think maybe he is a dethroned despot on the lam from some foreign country, such as USA. I cannot imagine where the Keys Energy Board members came from, ignoring their own lawyer’s advice. Oh, dumb me. They all live in Key West, the supreme role model for paving the Florida Keys. Marathon ain’t that far behind, though.