in truth, this "compromise" would really amount to an all-out retreat in the fight against the illegal short-term rentals at the root of our affordable housing crisis and the diminishing quality of life in our neighborhoods.
McCoy's proposal would grant a special exception to the out-of-town owners of properties in Truman Annex and the adjoining Shipyards condominiums, allowing them to obtain a magically-created transient rental license for a $1,000 fee. It's touching to see our public officials responding so hastily to the concerns of outsiders who are breaking our zoning laws and other city ordinances. Too bad some of that concern isn't lavished on those of us who live here.
The people who would get the biggest shaft under the McCoy pan are the actual residents in those two gated communities, people who bought their homes as residential units with a reasonable expectation that their neighbors would follow the city's zoning law barring short-term rentals. Instead, they find themselves in the middle of an unlicensed, unsupervised hotel. Let's face it, most people who come to Key West on vacation come here to party. And that nonstop carnival atmosphere is simply incompatible with a real neighborhood where people actually live.
The rest of us would get the shaft under McCoy's proposal, too, though less directly. That's because renting these residential units as unlicensed hotels a commercial use removes them from the housing pool available to year-round residents. This drives up the cost of the remaining housing, both for rentals and home ownership forcing working families and service industry workers to leave Key West in droves. As a result, our neighborhoods are disintegrating, while businesses struggle to hold on to qualified employees.
Worst of all, Merili's Trojan Horse Compromise would open the gates to an onslaught of legal challenges from owners of illegal transient units in other gated communities, who could rightfully argue that the Truman Annex and Shipyards owners had received special treatment from the city. This inevitable development would paralyze any attempts to enforce the transient rental ordinance throughout Key West for years to come. This rope-a-dope strategy has proven very effective in the past the city refuses to enforce the law while it's under legal challenge, while illegal transient rental owners continue to profit at the expense of our community.
The message being sent by Commissioner McCoy and the other city officials pushing this scheme is clear: if you're not from here and you have a lot of money, then your profits outweigh the best interests of the people who do live here. And while every public official gives lip service to easing our housing shortage, their real commitment can be seen in the foot-dragging on the transient rental issue and the progress made in the Roosevelt Annex affordable housing project which began in the summer of 1997 and has yet to see ground broken.
In the end, it all comes down to your vision of what Key West should be. Should it be a diverse community with real character, whose government puts the best interests of residents first? Or should it be turned into a theme park, where the people who make Key West such a special place are driven out by skyrocketing housing prices and unraveling community fabric, and service industry employees are confined to worker ghettos somewhere up the Keys?
Let Mayor Weekley and your commissioner know what you