ROB O’NEAL/The Citizen
Surrounded by the ocean, luxury condos, apartments and the Monroe County Detention Center, The Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter (KOTS) is located at center right will be reconfigured to minimize impacts to neighbors.

September 19, 2019

The Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter on Stock Island opened in 2004.

Key West officials on Tuesday approved an agreement that will allow the city’s homeless shelter — Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter, or KOTS — to remain on the Sheriff’s Office College Road property.

In return for permission to keep KOTS where it is, the city will give the Sheriff’s Office a 1.1-acre parcel along Trumbo Road on which Sheriff Rick Ramsay can build up to 40 housing units, according to the agreement that City Commissioners approved at their Tuesday night meeting. Vice Mayor Sam Kaufman presided over the meeting, as Mayor Teri Johnston was absent.

The 1.1-acre parcel on Trumbo Road is the lot that sat vacant for years, often housing defunct police cars. In recent years, residents have spruced up the lot and turned it into a dog park, but with the understanding and warning that the parcel has always been eyed for housing. The dog park users agreed to enjoy the park while it lasted, knowing it would not be a permanent feature of the neighborhood.

The city owned property on Trumbo Road will be the site of up to 40 affordable housing units for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Offce

In the KOTS agreement, the city also has agreed, “when funds become available,” to rebuild and reconfigure KOTS to increase the distance between the neighboring stilted townhomes that are part of Sunset Marina and Condominiums and to minimize the impact to the neighboring townhomes.

But it was a Trumbo Road neighbor who addressed the commissioners at Tuesday’s meeting.

Jed Molleston, representing the Steam Plant Condominium Association, told the commission that he and his group hadn’t known about the agreement and plans for the 1-acre parcel “‘til we read about it in the paper on Saturday,” Molleston said.

“My request would be that this vote be delayed until we can have our attorneys look at it, so we can see where we really are and whether we need to oppose the matter …” Molleston said. “We would welcome sheriff’s employees, as long as there’s an appropriate plan in place for that housing.

“We at the Steam Plant desire to participate in the future of this project. We desire to have our input heard since we are the only neighbor there and we do have a substantial investment in that property.”

The temporary dog park next to the Steamplant Condominiums will be given to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office to build up to 40 affordable housing units.

City Attorney Shawn Smith told the commissioners and Molleston that the Sheriff’s Office will have to go through the same development, permitting and construction process as any other major development would require, so there will be ample opportunity for public input as the project proceeds. Given the property’s location in Old Town, Smith said, the city’s historic preservation board will also have to approve whatever goes onto that parcel.

The commission did not postpone the vote, as Molleston requested, so the Steam Plant Condominium Association’s attorneys could review the agreement. And Commissioner Jimmy Weekley emphasized that the people who created the impromptu dog park on that 1.1-acre parcel vowed to relinquish the property when it was tapped to become workforce housing, a priority that has long been on residents’ radar.

The agreement ends a years-long saga between the Sheriff’s Office, the city and Monroe County that saw a variety of options presented at various times to house the city’s homeless population.

In other commission news, a report on the current condition and possible future uses of the Stock Island Landfill, or Mount Trashmore as it’s locally known, was postponed until the city’s next meeting on Oct. 1.

City Manager Greg Veliz also honored his mentor, successor and friend, retiring City Manager Jim Scholl, who humbly accepted Veliz’s praise and gratitude, along with Smith’s appreciation for the 10 years that he has had the opportunity to sit next to Scholl at City Commission meetings while the city has benefitted from Scholl’s leadership and integrity.