BPAS TRUMPS BUDGET AT SPECIAL MARATHON MEETING
The “budget” portion of Marathon City Council’s special final budget hearing meeting on September 21 took less than 10 minutes and, for the second time, was unanimously approved without any public comment.
Instead, council has spent the majority of its time discussing city building allocations and the permitting process following the recent revoking of 300 affordable housing allocations given to the city in 2018.
The budget and tax rate tentatively approved at the September 13 city council meeting remained unchanged through Tuesday’s meeting. With a final mileage rate of 2.72 mils, the city’s tax rate for 2022-23 reflects a 15.04% increase over the reduction rate – the rate needed to generate the same tax revenue as in 2021-22 based on current property values.
Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Johnson justified the increase in part by additional staff in the city’s code and public works departments, as well as a 9.6% cost-of-living adjustment for city staff and a planned 5% increase in health insurance costs. The increase will add approximately $9.7 million in revenue to the city’s general fund and bring the city to 13 days less than a year on unrestricted reserves.
The new budget of $116,909,494 represents the Seven Mile Marina development, as well as $400,000 set aside for the first-time homebuyer loan program. Planned infrastructure projects include improvements to bridges, the park at the base of the Seven Mile Bridge, the unused Quay property and the community park.
In addition to approving the recommended building allowances for the current BPAS period, Marathon Mayor John Bartus has proposed using seven of the city’s available administrative relief building allowances – reserved for use in circumstances – to allow for the completion of affordable housing units. in the La Palma development on 101st Street Ocean. Nearing completion, the development’s original building allowances were revoked as part of 300 affordable units deemed illegal in an Aug. 3 opinion issued by Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals (DCA).
City Attorney Steve Williams revealed during the discussion that the city’s request for a rehearing of the Affordable Units case was denied in an 8-1 decision earlier in the afternoon . Barring an unlikely outcome if the city appeals the case to the Florida Supreme Court, a fix for the revoked benefits via the state’s next legislative session, if successful, could take longer than six months. .
“There’s a gentleman who’s literally 25 miles in a 26-mile marathon,” Williams said, adding that by the same analogy, “If he’s at mile 25, I’m not sure anyone’s another came back again at mile 20.
“Our initial idea was to use some of our available administrative relief pool to help this gentleman. It’s a barn door situation. … You’re nice to one person, everyone wants you to be nice to them. …At some point someone will have to make the political calls or the legal calls or both as to what units you give out…and where do you draw the line?
“I urge you all to pause on all of this,” Councilman Steve Cook said. “Is it harder to choose the same outcome for everyone than to treat some better than others? … Trying to circumvent the court’s decision by doing what appears to be the right thing can cost us dearly.
Following discussion of the relative progress of several contractors in their respective developments both now and in the near future as revoked units are involved in additional appeals or legislative fixes, the board voted 4-1 to abstain. to grant the administrative relief allowances, with Bartus as the only yes vote. Deputy Mayor Dan Zieg also reminded council of a 2001 decision in which current counsel for the appellants in the 300-unit case, Richard Grosso, successfully argued that a 3.3 million apartment complex dollars violated his county’s overall plan and had been demolished after being previously occupied. .
In other news:
- At its first public hearing, the council voted unanimously to pass an ordinance prohibiting the drinking and smoking of any item other than an unfiltered cigar—an exception mandated by state law—on the beaches and parks of Marathon, as well as the establishment of an enforcement mechanism. The ban can be lifted by the city council for special occasions upon request.
- At its last public hearing, the council voted to formally establish boat ramp usage fees for non-residents as well as parking fees for trailers at the boat ramps and vehicles at Sombrero Beach. The fee schedule is as follows: $5 per hour for the first two hours of parking at Sombrero Beach, followed by $2 per hour thereafter; $25 to launch or retrieve a boat at one of the city’s three public boat launches; and $20 per day to park a vehicle and trailer in the spaces available at these ramps. The ordinance states that vehicles registered at Marathon or Key Colony Beach may register annually to use these facilities at no charge, and at its Sept. 13 meeting, the board indicated its desire to extend the same free use to residents of Marathon and KCB all year round. as evidenced by documents such as driver’s licenses, voter cards and leases. Free usage privilege is not transferable to short-term renters or visitors. The exact registration process used remains to be determined, as does the practical application date.