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Islamorada Considering Measures to Extend Building Permits Until 2026

Most residents of the Florida Keys have at least a basic understanding of ROGO and how it impacts building in the Keys. Anyone looking to build on a parcel of vacant land in the Florida Keys is most likely waiting to be issued a building permit before work can begin. With the buildout approaching, when no more building permits will be issued in the Florida Keys, many towns throughout the county are looking for ways to ease into the new reality and the challenges that it will bring to both residents and local governments.

At a recent Islamorada Council meeting, county officials were on hand to outline potential options that Islamorada has for navigating the coming build out. The Senior Director of Planning and Environmental Resources for Monroe County, Emily Schemper, laid out several ideas for council members to consider. Among them, would be to reduce the number of building permits allotted each year to space them out more and allow for permits to continue through 2026. The county has already adopted this model for county-owned pieces of land. Using the 24-hour emergency evacuation model to determine the safe and appropriate rate of growth for the Keys, the state of Florida previously allocated just 3,550 permits to be issued through July 2023. After that, permits will cease to be issued. Monroe County has elected to reduce their annual allotment from 126 to just 60 in order to allow permits to be issued through 2026. Their reasoning, according to Schemper, is to allow county officials more time to create a solid plan of action, as well as additional time for land rights to expire. The state and county already anticipate massive legal battles from landowners left with unbuildable land when permitting ends, and the more land rights that retire, the less future liability the county will be left with.

So far, Islamorada has not adopted a plan to extend their building permits for any length of time. Just 28 building permits are issued each year for Islamorada homes. Schemper recommends reducing this number, like the county did, in order to extend their time until 2026 as well. With so few permits already issued, some city council members are hesitant.

Another option to alleviate future claims is for land to be purchased by the Department of Environmental Protection under the Florida Keys Stewardship Act. $5 million has been available under this law for purchasing land in the Keys, but since 2016 only $1 million has been utilized.

Time is running out for areas like Islamorada to initiate a plan of action in relation to building permits. The Florida Keys real estate market is likely to see big changes coming soon as it relates to this huge issue.

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