Wednesday, October 25, 2006

ROGO, ROGO, whose got the ROGO?

Before it morphs into this weeks' Solares Hill, I'm linking to this week's issue so I can point out the front page, below the fold article by Mark Howell entitled "We Go, You Go, It All Goes to ROGO".

Mark Howell has a deft way with words and he puts an appropriate emphasis on what is interesting in a meeting. Here he quotes Mayor Morgan McPherson:

His ramble on ROGOs lasted several minutes. McPherson?s negative opinion (and vote) on the developments under review was due, he said, ?not to what we see but what we don?t see.? Two of the ROGOs being discussed, he pointed out, came from the ?beneficial pool? supposed to be set aside for affordable development. ?That?s very nice,? he said, sarcasm dripping from
the dais.

And more,

The problem, answered the city?s new planning director, a patient yet breezy Gail Kenson, is that the city has not had a new allocation of ROGOS since 2002. Of the ROGOs from that allocation, 19 were put aside for ?beneficial
use,? in other words for developing affordable units. Today, revealed Verge, ?We have slightly over one.?

ROGO's -- Rate Of Growth Ordinance points -- are required to build any housing in the Keys. They are a mechanism imposed by the State Department of Community Affairs under the Keys' Monroe County designation as an "Area of Critical State Concern", a measure imposed many years ago to forestall over-development that would add significantly to population here. ROGO points are a valuable commodity in the Keys, up to $400,000 each according to discussion at the Commission meeting. Developers of market rate housing seek them, seek to transfer them from one area to another, and look for clever ways (including lying, suggests this Keynoter editorial) to convert affordable housing ROGO's into market rate ones, and to move them around like pieces on a chess board.

These developers buy up trailer parks, marinas, and other properties that provide relatively low-cost housing, for their ROGO allocations, then redevelop high-end, market rate units, some of them for residential purposes, but equally often for vacation rentals, condominium hotels, or posh marinas. Removing these properties from the affordable pool creates pressure throughout the market, on other homeowners whose property values increase, with the associated increases in taxes, insurance and fees. The people dislocated from these sites then have to find other places to live in the Keys, or they have to move on, leaving their jobs behind to be filled (perhaps) by imported workers who bus in from the mainland at 4 A.M. and who return there after a full days work only to return the next day. It puts upward pressure then on rents, as owners of rental properties are faced with higher costs, decreased availability, and increased demand.

In the end though, Commissioners approved the developments in Key West that engendered the discussion, and there went a few more of the available affordable housing ROGO's. The cupboard is bare and DCA is unlikely to grant more ROGOs until they are given an opportunity to review changes to ordinances and land development regulations that will prove that the Keys do not exceed its carrying capacity, i.e, the critical factor in hurricane evacuation times, water supplies, sewer capacities, traffic and other elements affecting safety, health and quality of life.

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