November 12, 2021
Mayor Michelle Coldiron
Commissioner David Rice
Commissioner Craig Cates
Commissioner Holly Raschein
Commissioner Eddie Martinez
Re: Wisteria Island – Proposed Plans
Dear Mayor and Monroe County Commissioners:
Last Stand believes Wisteria Island should be a natural park, with no commercial development and without duplication of facilities and services currently available at four other park locations in Key West.
Last Stand supports Wisteria Island remaining undeveloped, with volunteer efforts utilized to augment the Island’s existing native vegetation. This would provide important educational opportunities for residents and visitors.
The existing zoning is appropriate, and would allow for low-impact activities on this public land, which has an interesting history. In 2011 Last Stand wrote to Townsley Shwab objecting to Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Regulations text amendments for Wisteria Island. We still believe that steering development toward unsuitable areas such as coastal high hazard areas, flood prone velocity zones, and areas not served by existing infrastructure is a bad idea and would inevitably result in clear violations of existing land use regulations.
We object to the notion that extensive, expensive facilities and services would be developed on Wisteria Island, thereby duplicating existing facilities not far away. To be more specific, the County has a beach in Key West with a restaurant, showers, restrooms and rentals. That is Higgs Beach, and it serves both residents and visitors very well. Just down the road are Smathers Beach, South Beach and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, each with appropriate amenities to serve residents and visitors. While none of those beaches has dinghy docks or private showers for boaters, Key West provides those services at both Key West Bight and Garrison Bight. To underscore this point, upland facilities are most cost effective and valued by live-aboard boaters when they are on Key West, not a ferry service ride away.
As valuable public land close to Key West, members of the general public need to have more opportunities for discussion and input. So far, the planning process for Wisteria Island has lacked enough transparency. This should be remedied with a well-advertised series of public hearings, so all voices can be heard.
Wisteria is a small spoil island, and its best value is not as a development to offer the same as Key West already has at four other easily accessible locations. The best use for Wisteria Island would be to “be unique” – to promote learning about native vegetation with limited hours for public use.
Additionally, Wisteria Island might be considered as a secondary mitigation site as part of the expansion of the Key West Airport, assuming the attributes of mitigation would require returning the site to its natural, undeveloped state.
Thank you for the opportunity to offer these comments. Last Stand is very interested in participating in additional public forums, expecting to represent citizens who are key stakeholders in plans for Wisteria Island.
For the Last Stand Board,
D.A. Aldridge, President
cc: Roman Gastesi, County Administrator