Monday, October 8, 2012

Spreading The Ink Blot

There is a rule in the annals of Key West legislation that requires residents to approve any land annexation the city leaders may dream up. There are plans being discussed apparently that would move the city limits to Mile Marker 5, about a mile further east than the current city limit at Cow Key Bridge. The new city limits, if all goes as the Mayor would like, would be somewhere here, near Key Haven, looking east on Highway One:

The City has actually annexed the north half of Stock Island, so College Road is entirely in the city of Key West. The annexation was ostensibly to assist the construction of the College but it also put a large chunk of developable land in the city and that benefited Pritam Singh and his gated golf course community which came into being inside the city's new expanded boundary. Now the idea made public in the newspaper recently is for more lovely annexation. The thing is there are a lot of unanticipated consequences with this latest proposal. The city leaders apparently want Key Haven inside the city, and who can blame them for wanting a nice upscale community paying hefty taxes inside the city?

Key Haven is no great place to live in my opinion, the homes are on ground level which meant much damage occurred in Hurricane Wilma's flooding, besides which the architecture is reminiscent of mainland Florida suburbs, all 1960s kitsch and pseudo Mediterranean tiles. The nearest store, if it can be called that is the Shell gas station, though a new strip mall is planned across the street on Stock Island. Many of Key West's glitterati call Key Haven home and Ed Swift made a name for himself (again) when he protested a TV show filmed in a neighbors house whose lights and commotion annoyed the quiet loving Swift family. Lots of Old Town residents plagued by Swift's raucous train tours called that schadenfreude and laughed at his discomfort. Navy jets fly overhead and make their own noise and the island's broad streets are lined with parked vehicles of all sorts. It's not really that upscale though the houses are large and most have canals.

If, as is supposedly required, the residents of Key Haven vote on whether or not they want to be annexed to the city, I wonder how keen they will be to pay city taxes and suffer city regulations. NO BOAT TRAILERS on city streets is one ordinance currently suffering public debate in Key West and I doubt Key Haven residents want to find homes for their trailers. The little island is absolutely littered with boats and trailers at the moment. Join the city and that will change! It may be coincidence but just like North Stock Island and the Golf Course, there is a development proposed for Key Haven.

It's known jokingly as the Key Haven Truck Stop because trucks sometimes...stop there prior to entering the city. The plan now appears to be to put 43 homes there, and maybe it will look prettier than than it does now,

I would prefer to see it made into park-like open space. Which on second thoughts isn't such a great idea as it would probably become bum central, which on third thoughts might relieve the congestion at Higgs Beach and Bayview Park...

Aside from Key Haven and all it's lovely potential tax benefits there is a fly in the ink of the Rorschach blot that is Key West's expanding city limits. That would be the lower class neighborhoods of South Stock Island. It does seem to more than one observer to be rather indelicate for the city to be slavering so eagerly after white upper class Key Haven and yet to be appearing to bypass the possibility of annexing the rest of Stock Island south of Highway One.

This is the land of trailers and the working poor, people who have jobs and families but never make enough to get ahead. They are the dishwashers and janitors, the waitstaff and maintenance people who make Key West's hospitality industry function. There are the light industries located here that support the city of Key West, the car repair shops, plumbers, carpenters and welders that provide what the city needs. It's not pretty but it is critical.

So the question has been raised: if the city does want to take Key Haven, what about south Stock Island? On that subject city leaders aren't quite so vocal and clearly the idea of providing expanded police fire and rescue services here would be quite a test for city services. The County has a couple of Sheriff's deputies that patrol much of the lower Lower Keys including Stock Island and there is a fire station which is due to be renovated, though that project may end up not being accelerated if city leaders move forward with all this sudden talk of expansion.

Naturally there is also another development project on Stock Island that might benefit from city incorporation. Stock Island got its name from its 19th century rĂ´le as the place whe Key West kept its Attlee prior to slaughter, though nowadays its the place where fresh fish come to shore in commercial quantities.

Shrimp and fishing boats retreated here from the Key West Bight which became a collection of pleasure boat marinas but now these commercial boats face more apparently inexorable gentrification on Stock Island. There are plans to build a luxury marina on Shrimp Road and it's looking terribly busy after a stalled period of. Failed financing following the 2008 Great Financial Shrinkage.

I have no idea what the Stock Island Marina Village is when it's at home but it's logo includes a representation of a coconut palm and around here that's shorthand for tourist-friendly. The construction site must be for something other than rough commercial fishermen.

It seems to me that whatever does come next be it the legally required referendum on annexation or some other legal sleight of hand, proposals to annex Stock Island or Key Haven or both will need acres of public discussion and consideration of all aspects of potential changes. I have no particular opinions about the changes that suddenly popped out of the pages of the newspaper as I live far outside the city. Geographically is makes sense at some level to move the city limits up highway one and include all the islands clustered at the southernmost tip of the highway under one jurisdiction, but politically and economically I wonder how the city will cope with such vast changes. On the other hand when politicians make these pronouncements it's usually because people, of influence have been making their will known and it seems their will in this case is for expansion of city limits.