Success! As a result of this letter, the DEO has decided to move forward with Community Workshops, which will be conducted in the Upper, Middle, and Lower Keys. We will provide an update as soon as those dates are published.
May 4, 2023
Via Email to:
Meredith Ivey, Acting Secretary, Department of Economic Opportunity, Meredith.Ivey@deo.myflorida.com
Barbara Powell, Deputy Bureau Chief, Bureau of planning and Growth, Division of Community Planning, Department of Economic Opportunity, Barbara.Powell@deo.myflorida.com
107 East Madison Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32399
Re: New Hurricane Evacuation Model for Monroe County
Dear Ms. Ivey and Ms. Powell,
We understand discussions are underway with Monroe County to update the Hurricane Evacuation modeling last done in 2012/2013, based on the most recent census data. Last Stand represents many concerned residents who would like an opportunity to participate in the evacuation modeling process.
We hope you will consider changes to enhance the process. As you know, much has changed since hurricane evacuation was determined to be critical to public safety and the limiting factor for growth in the Keys. While hurricane evacuation limitations have served as the “surrogate” for the less quantifiable but critical carrying capacity and environmental issues, it is clear based upon the passage of bills this legislative session that the Florida legislature has deemed that development trumps all other considerations. Yet,…
- The Keys have recently sustained drinking water outages and received notice from the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority (FKAA) that they will no longer be capable of pumping water to meet current demand, much less continued growth.
- The growth limitations, which were initially designed to ensure and help improve water quality in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, have not done the job, as our nearshore waters are still considered “impaired”.
- Developers building ever more hotels, condos, apartments and houses, has not decreased the need for affordable housing – it has only made the situation worse. While we fully support affordable housing for our workforce, these housing issues cannot be resolved by “building our way out of the problem”, but rather by utilizing tools such as re-development, preserving existing workforce housing, getting a handle on vacation rentals that deplete the housing stock, requiring a minimum number of very low rents in any new development or redevelopment, and so on.
- The Tourist Development Council (TDC) continues to spend millions of dollars in advertising and marketing to attract tourists, which only adds to the daily traffic, congestion and carrying capacity issues. Similarly, in years past, summer was considered off-season, with fewer residents and tourists here during hurricane season. That scenario has long passed.
- The advent of Vacation Rental properties, along with the local government’s inability to regulate and the state’s preemption and unwillingness to add any common-sense regulation, further compounds the issue. If we base evacuation modeling on the assumption that the primary home owner is/is not occupying the home on April 1st, that does not factor in the prevalence of both legal and illegal vacation renters. And unlike hotel or motel properties, where the management can require both the evacuation and timing of said evacuation, this is simply not the case for vacation renters, who may not even be aware of when they are supposed to evacuate nor even if they are required to evacuate.
These and more issues are having an extremely negative impact on residents’ quality of life. We’ve seen what happens when development trumps hurricane evacuation mandates – we just witnessed Hurricane Ian and its damage to the Fort Myers area and an evacuation statute that was meant to be 16 hours, yet in reality was 96. Many people died. The situation is far worse for the Florida Keys, as we must traverse 120 miles of a single roadway to reach relative safety.
Last Stand appreciates the efforts of DEO in starting the process and looks forward to partnering with the DEO and many community organizations to build a safe, new hurricane evacuation model. We hope the modeling update process will include some common-sense considerations and allow for citizen input.
Thank you for your consideration.
For the Last Stand Board,
Ann Olsen, President
Last Stand is a non-profit organization of volunteer citizens who are interested in preserving the Florida Keys’ unique quality of life and our fragile, beautiful natural environment. We have worked tirelessly since 1987 to protect Key West and the Florida Keys.
Last Stand • P.O. Box 146 • Key West, FL 33041 www.keyslaststand.org