State considers easing Florida Keys development regulations 

Population growth and new hurricane guidance pave path to possible construction boom

State Considers Easing Florida Keys Development Regulations

The state of Florida is reconsidering development regulations in the 113-mile Florida Keys archipelago. 

Population growth and updated analysis on hurricane evacuation needs are paving the way for a possible increase in building permits granted across Monroe County, the Miami Herald reported. Owners of the many undeveloped properties in the Keys are expected to support easing the strict regulations on construction. Development in the Keys has been strictly managed since the area was declared “of critical state concern” in the 1970s. The regulation eventually became codified as the Rate of Growth Ordinance (ROGO), which is revisited every 10 years following the census. 

“We knew this was coming, however, seeing words on paper is a reality check. What I do know is that we’re not going to make everyone happy, and that public safety, our environment and property rights all come into play,” Monroe County Mayor Holly Raschein told the outlet. 

Growth in the Keys is on the table following the 2020 census, thanks in part to the additional 10,000 residents counted, compared to the 2010 census, the Herald reported. But the last state review of the development regulations, which concluded in 2012, called for a permanent cap on buildings to set in this year. Proponents of the cap at the time said the Keys had a finite number of homes and visitors that the islands could sustainably support. 

Maintaining the 2023 cutoff for buildings puts Monroe County and other municipalities at risk of thousands of “takings” lawsuits, requiring them to pay full market value for properties where development has been flat-out denied. 

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At a meeting of local officials, Key West attorney David Paul Horan said local governments will eventually have to issue building permits or pay for the properties. “We’re telling people who’ve been paying taxes for years and years, ‘I’m sorry, you can’t use your property,’” Horan said, according to the outlet.

Critics of easing the development restrictions say it’s a matter of human and environmental safety. 

Environmental lawyer Richard Grosso told the outlet, “With rapid intensification of tropical storms into major hurricanes becoming a worsening problem, how does anyone justify increasing or removing the evacuation-based development limits in the Keys.”

–– Kate Hinsche