On Tuesday morning, July 21, Monroe County Mayor Heather Carruthers and the Board of County Commissioners held an over three hour emergency virtual special meeting, via Zoom, to discuss the continuing spike in cases of COVID-19, whether to ask the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to cancel mini-season in the Florida Keys, in addition to other possible changes to protective measures such as the county’s vacation rental plans and mask ordinances.
Mayor Carruthers first confirmed that currently there were nearly 900 cases of Coronavirus in the county, with a rate of approximately a dozen new cases per day, and recommended limiting public gatherings to less than 10 people as a result.
The board then discussed three proposals to further tweak the existing conditions of reopening vacation rentals.
The first proposed change was to the occupancy of vacation rentals, with a limit of two people per bedroom, plus two additional occupants/guests overall.
Such as if it were a two bedroom vacation rental, the rental would have a maximum of six occupants within it.
The second proposal would impose the requirement of a local manager within the municipality or region of the vacation rental, such as a lower/middle/upper Keys manager for the according upper/middle/lower Keys rental.
The final proposal requested that a name and phone number of the vacation rental manager be posted somewhere on the property of the vacation rental, prominent and visible from the roadway.
In doing so, if code/law enforcement, neighbors, or anyone else sees a problem at the address, they could then easily contact the vacation rental manager accordingly to report incidents.
After an almost hour-long and robust virtual public discussion, where both Monroe County residents and visiting renters voiced their opinions and suggestions on the changes to vacation rentals, the board unanimously approved to send forth their stated proposals.
Per information from the Department of Professional Business Regulation’s (DPBR) general council, the Monroe County Administrator will now send the DPBR a letter regarding the revised plans for final approval.
Upon DPBR approval of the revisions, the changes would then become part of the county’s current criteria under which a vacation rental could reopen in the Keys.
The board then moved forward with discussion on whether to submit a letter to the FWC about closures during lobster mini season (Ordinance 023-2020).
After hearing another round of varied public virtual comments and ideas on how to handle mini season during the pandemic, the board voted in favor 3 to 1, to not cancel mini season.
Most board members explained that it would be too late now to do so, with participants already on their way down, if not in the Keys already to partake in the annual event.
This year’s spiny lobster mini season takes place July 29-30.
The County will also limit boat ramp access in Key Largo to follow the Village of Islamorada’s closures. Rowell’s Park and Bay Drive will be closed to the public, and Sunset Point and Harry Harris Park will only be accessible by
residents from Friday, July 24 to Sunday, Aug. 9. During this time, nonresidents will need to seek a private boat ramp or seek a public ramp elsewhere in the Keys.
The last item on the agenda was finalizing revisions to amend the mask ordinance which was subsequently reviewed, and unanimously approved. It sets the payable amount of a citation at $250 for violators who do not wish to contest the citation in court. The Board also withdrew a provision requiring businesses to close for three days if an employee tests positive with COVID-19 so that provision can be reworked.
Additionally, despite being called just 24 hours earlier on July 20, the Zoom event was noted as being viewed/attended by over 700 people. To view the minutes and recorded meeting: at http://monroecountyfl.iqm2.com/Citizens/calendar.aspx.