From the council chamber dais to chats and even political campaigns, leaders of a prominent Key Biscayne condominium group have stated for years the island’s condo residents are ignored. They have claimed Village policies favor single-family homes on the west side of the island to the detriment of condos on the east.
But when it comes to the opinions of people actually living in condos, the assertion may be Key Biscayne’s biggest political myth, a new survey suggests. The data comes from a recently-completed survey of residents conducted by the Village by the ETC Institute, a Kansas City-based polling firm that serves hundreds of municipalities nationwide.
To test the claim of condo dissatisfaction, the Key Biscayne Independent obtained another layer of data — breakdowns by the type of dwelling a person lived in, which was collected by ETC but not analyzed — until now.
The result? Condo residents said they were happier with Village services than those who live in single-family homes. The key overall metric: 76% of people in multi-family residences responded they are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with Village services compared to 68% of people living in single-family homes.
The survey results are at odds with repeated statements about dissatisfaction from leaders of the Key Biscayne Condominium President’s Council, a group that has demanded and attained access to members of Council and other village leaders. The group, which claims to speak for condo dwellers, often uses an “us-versus-them” framing in emails and even paid advertisements. Members of KBCPC are chosen not by condo residents, but by condo owners, many of whom are multi-unit corporate owners or non-residents.
A 2019 email blast from the President’s Council about the costs of burying power lines is typical:
“It is disingenuous to talk about “we are one Village” when what you are really promoting involves using a lot of other people’s money for the benefit of a relative few,” wrote the KBCPC’s then-president, Antonio Camejo.
Yet the survey — in area after area — indicated that condo residents’ views of various Village issues were largely the same as their neighbors on the other side of Crandon Boulevard. There were very few areas where either satisfaction, dissatisfaction, or priorities showed statistically significant differences between condo dwellers and those who lived in single-family homes. ETC officials say the error margin is plus or minus 4.2% for the group of 512 people surveyed randomly by mail. (See the Full breakdown).
When asked the “money question” — one’s opinion of the overall value received for Village tax dollars and fees — 63% of multi-family dwellers answered “good” or “excellent.” Among single-family home residents, the number was 60%, another statistical tie.
Council Member Allison McCormick, who has long advocated a “one Village” approach, said “some groups have tried to divide us based on address,” but that the survey results should “confirm what many of us already know — we are one island.”
Even on some of the most expensive potential capital projects, often involving sharply different views, the poll found little difference between condo dwellers and those in single-family homes.
On sea level rise mitigation, 80% of condo dwellers rated it a “very high” or “high” priority, compared to 75% of single-family home dwellers.
On burying electrical power lines, where Camejo and the KBCPC campaigned for a contentious assessment tax plan and said condo owners shouldn’t “pay twice” for undergrounding, the survey found 64% of condo residents said utility undergrounding was a high or very high priority — although it was an even bigger priority for single-family homes.
Neither Camejo nor the KBCPC responded to a request for comment.
The assessment tax proposal was temporarily laid aside when the Florida Legislature passed a law that may require utility companies to charge ratepayers for some undergrounding costs, but the law’s application to Key Biscayne is still unclear. Village leaders have said the community will still have to spend tens of millions to fully underground the island, and a decision on the funding approach has yet to be made.
Where Condo and Single-Family Home Residents Differ
Although there was broad uniformity between condo residents and single-family home dwellers on most services and issues, there were a handful of topics where the ETC survey revealed statistically significant areas of disagreement. There were also a few wide gaps in some priorities.
Single-family home residents were nearly twice as likely to rank street lighting as a top Village priority, compared to condo residents (40% to 24%).
Condo residents were much more likely to say that beach maintenance should get the most emphasis from Village leaders at 52%, compared to just to 29% for single-family home dwellers. And one in five condo residents said they were “very dissatisfied” with beach cleanliness and ocean water quality, one of the highest disapproval rates among the survey’s topics.
Condo residents were more dissatisfied with recycling collection, with 36% giving ratings of “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied,” compared to 27% for home dwellers. It should be noted that in most cases, recycling in condos is the responsibility of condo management, not the Village, but the survey did not screen for that question.
Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.