The future of the Village is very much on the agenda for the next Council meeting.
The final approval of the controversial Strategic Vision Plan is finally before the dais. It provides a nonbinding blueprint on everything from development, connecting parks and green spaces, addressing traffic congestion and providing protections from sea-level rise.
The future of the Fire Department is also on the docket as it faces upcoming high-level staff departures.
The Village is also set to approve the framework — but not the spending — for the $250 million “Big Dig” that will essentially re-plumb the island among other infrastructure improvements.
Key Biscayne is amending its comprehensive plan, striking out and updating a number of provisions, such removing a requirement to cooperate with the private sector to build 250 residential units.
“There’s a lot of things going on and there’s a lot of things we have to get moving,” said Village Manager Steve Williamson.
Building, Planning and Zoning Director Jeremy Gauger said as far as the Vision Plan is concerned, “This is one of the first big steps as far as I’m concerned, of many, many, many other steps.”
The scene is set for a marathon meeting addressing a variety of other topics, among them:
- Mayor Joe Rasco will discuss gun violence in a special presentation as mass shootings in the U.S. are now on a record pace.
- The Village is seeking more than $1 million to hire two companies to address immediate flooding problems
- Also up for approval is a 5 percent increase on local business taxes and a proposal to raise residential garbage and recycling service by $75 per household by the fiscal year 2025.
The lightning rod is most certainly the Strategic Vision plan.
The approval of the Vision Plan also comes after the state Legislature passed a bill on Tuesday eliminating referendum on zoning changes by municipalities.
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Former Village Council candidate Louisa Conway said she believes the Vision Plan is a roadmap to overdevelopment. She and others plan to speak out against its ratification.
“If these residents don’t speak up and don’t fight this or don’t come to the meeting, and express their concerns, we will be looking at the possibility of a concrete jungle,” she said.
On the Fire Department front, Williamson said it will soon be at a crossroads.
“We have a major leadership transition in the Fire Department over the next three years,” he said.
The Village allocated money for consulting firm Center for Public Safety Management to do a workforce assessment on how to address departures and will hear it Tuesday.
Many of those planning to leave have been with the department since its inception. “So we have a serious void that we have to pay attention to in the sense of leadership and institutional knowledge,” Williamson said.
Also on the agenda is that approval to purchase two fire-rescue trucks at $570,000 apiece. The current 11-year-old vehicles are often out of service because of frequent mechanical failures.
The Council will decide whether to approve the first step of the “Big Dig,” the expansive infrastructure project that is partially funded by a $100 million general obligation bond passed by voters.
The project not only re-engineers the stormwater drainage system but undergrounds electrical lines,addresses shoreline protection and roadway improvements.
The Village tapped engineering firm Black & Veatch to develop details of how to execute the Resilient Infrastructure and Adaptation Plan.
“Now we have the strategy that frames everything up,” said Roland Samimy, chief resilience and sustainability officer for the Village.
The Village amends its comprehensive plan every seven years. Williamson said that the changes will include a new section to address destruction of property due to flooding that is now required by the state.
Other changes include the aforementioned affordable housing, as well as to sections involving future land use, transportation, capital improvements, schools and recreation.
“Some of the stuff is literally nonsense but there’s other stuff that has some substance to it,” Williamson said.
JOHN PACENTI is the executive editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV. You can reach him at [email protected]