Fills d’Islamorada’s future takes center stage
A group of concerned citizens visited village officials and engineers to present their vision for the future of the embankments – the islands connecting the keys of upper and lower Matecumbe – during an open house on October 6. Criticism of the public meeting notice and concerns about the land’s potential development were heard before residents sat down one-on-one with consultants leading the master plan process.
A public consultation workshop gave residents the opportunity to share their ideas with consultants from CPH Inc., the company hired by the village in March to lead a master plan effort. Before it started, residents Capt Ed Davidson and Van Cadenhead spoke about the format of the meeting and how it was announced. Davidson admitted that the short-term summons was not adequate. Cadenhead said what was happening was an “insult to the people of Islamorada”.
âThere is no record of it. There is no public video recording of this, âCadenhead said.
Village manager Greg Oravec stepped in to explain the reasoning behind the meeting and told members of the public in attendance to come together to find a way to make the fills better than their current state.
âI think it’s a low bar because right now we have 1,000 orange cones and a bunch of rope,â he said. âMy hope as a village chief is that we have a community-driven process that ensures that everyone owns a part of this plan. And it might not be perfect in the end, but if we work hard, smart and together, it will be better than rope and orange cones.
The anger and frustration over using the Fills, owned by the Florida Department of Transportation and the Department of Environmental Protection, reached a boiling point shortly after Memorial Day in 2019. With vehicles and people racing space on the small lot, huge waste and safety issues were raised. concerns as people would be crossing a US 1. Residents flooded the village hall during a meeting to express their concerns and the need to ease the chaos, and several steps were taken to alleviate some of the problems.
Overcrowding continued to be seen a year later, in June 2020, when day trippers and visitors ventured to this popular spot for a day by the water. The Fills, which had been closed since mid-March 2020 as a COVID-19 protection measure, have reopened to visitors along with the rest of the Keys. And with the area reopening, there has been an increase in activity, illegal parking, citations and complaints.
In an effort to gain control of state property, the village approved and executed two five-year sublet agreements with FDOT and DEP in April 2020. A few months later, the former dais took over. says “yes” to initiate a master plan in accordance with a sublet requirement. . Last March, council members approved CPH Inc. to help the village create a master plan.
âWe don’t have a plan of what’s going to happen,â said Todd Hendrix, of CPH Inc. âWe want to gather information, facts, concerns and interests before we get down to business. “
Resident John Timura recalled the 2019 village meeting when many residents showed up at the village hall to discuss the fillings. Others who couldn’t enter sat outside the bleachers to watch TV while concerns were heard. Two years later, Timura said the village hired a company to make potential property changes that many were angry with at the time.
“I think we’re all happy with the state of things (in the Fills) right now,” he said. âAll we need are some nice stilts and some rope. “
Resident Barry Wray admitted there was anxiety about the Fills, and rightly so after the many years of activity that have degraded the area.
âI think we’re all driving the master plan. It would not have changed if this community had not led the master plan, âhe said. “It was because of the reaction that took place when we shut down the Fills.”
Islamorada Chamber of Commerce executive director Judy Hull said it was possible to beautify the infills with the master plan.
âOrange cones are the opposite,â she said. âWe want to see improvements. “
Once the community contribution session was over, a community fill-in survey was sent to village residents starting October 11. The polls are expected on November 1 and the results will be published afterwards. The next public contribution session is set for December 1 to discuss concepts based on what people envision based on initial awareness.
From there, a concept would be developed in January 2022 with another public workshop scheduled for February 2022 to present three to five ideas. A presentation would then take place for the board to see and vote on.
City Councilor Mark Gregg said the village is taking the right approach by engaging the public through various workshops, allowing the end product to contain community feedback and not just recommendations from council and staff.
âEveryone is buying into this process, and that’s a good thing,â he said.