The idea of the City of Key West annexing Stock Island is not a new one, but for the first time it is a frighteningly real possibility for the people who live there. On Tuesday, the city commission voted to table a resolution directing city staff to hire a consultant to study the feasibility of taking over the two-thirds of Stock Island that the city doesn't already control. The matter will be taken up again on June 20, the next city commission meeting.
People who had signed up to speak on the resolution were not allowed because the mayor accepted a motion to table the resolution before he opened public hearing. One Stock Island resident who came to address the commission and was not permitted, tried to speak from his seat. After being told several times to be quiet he left the meeting saying angrily, "This is why you'll never get Stock Island."
Proponents of the move claim it would benefit the people of Stock Island, bringing lower taxes and improved services. But a lot of Stock Island residents aren't buying it. And you really can't blame them. The claim of lower taxes is dubious, considering that residents would be paying city property taxes on top of their county taxes. And a look at Key West's deplorable roads, horrendous traffic, atrocious sidewalks, nonexistent parking and chronic stormwater flooding tells them what they can expect in the way of improved services.
In a recent Miami Herald story, Mayor Jimmy Weekley touted the lure of affordable housing as another reason to annex Stock Island. But there is already affordable housing there. And considering that the city created our current affordable housing shortage by allowing residentially-zoned housing to be rented as unlicensed hotels, annexation would probably spell the end of reasonable rents and property prices on Stock Island.
But if Stock Island residents are less than enthusiastic about annexation plans, land speculators are champing at the bit. For the last few years, developers and investors have been snapping up property on Stock Island, waiting for the day when the idea of annexing Stock Island becomes a reality Annexation would allow future development at greater densities than is currently permitted on Stock Island under county codes. And these properties could then be marketed to out-of-town investors as "Key West" addresses, boosting their allure and their prices.
Mayor Weekley also claims that the larger Key West tax-base created by annexation would be a financial boon to the city.
There are no more ROGO units available in the county than there are in the city and the infrastructure needs of Stock Island are great and will be very costly to provide. The annexation of Stock Island is certainly not cost effective for the city, but there are quite a few people who will profit incredibly if the city is able to accomplish a "hostile takeover."
It is particularly ironic that the city is making its move on Stock Island at the same time that the rest of the county is moving toward incorporation. Incorporation is a move toward more independence and personal responsibility. Annexation is what Hitler did to Poland.
The pro-annexation movement is notable in that it seems to entirely lack any support by people who actually live on Stock Island. Most people live there for one of two reasons: either they don't want to live in Key West, or they cannot afford our outrageous housing costs. Either way they are in trouble if Stock Island is annexed by the City.
Before exporting our own particular brand of happiness, we need to get this house in order.