Florida Keys

Voters want taller buildings for Key West affordable housing. Here’s what happens next

City staff is working on a request-for-proposals for affordable housing on College Road.
City staff is working on a request-for-proposals for affordable housing on College Road. Keynoter

Key West voters did what Mayor Craig Cates wanted them to do in last week’s referendum: Approve a measure to raise the allowable building height on a Stock Island property up to 40 feet.

The referendum means as many as 104 units of affordable housing can be built on the College Road property, about 30 more homes than if the height limit had stayed at 25 feet.

So now what?

Cates says the next step is to prepare a request for proposals, or a bid, to see which construction companies or developers want in on the project.

“I hope to have it ready for the April 3 [City Commission] meeting, for us to approve it and discuss it,” Cates said. “We don’t have to approve it to go out but I think we all want to be on the same page since it’s so important.”

Tuesday, 16 percent of registered Key West voters participated in the referendum and it passed 58.4 percent to 41.6 percent (1,383 votes for, 986 votes against).

The referendum read, “Shall the maximum height for habitable space used exclusively for affordable and workforce housing projects be increased from 25 to 40 feet on approximately 2.62 acres of city owned property in the HDR-1 zoning district on College Road.”

About 11 percent of voters turned out early to cast their ballots: 328 people voted in person while 1,339 mail-in ballots were received, according to voter records. The measure passed at each of Key West’s 10 precincts.

“That’s fantastic,” City Commissioner Sam Kaufman said. “It’s an opportunity, one space, where we can focus our resources and a majority of my colleagues on the commission want to see the lower rents in the 100 or so units that can be built there. I’m very pleased.”

Forty-foot-tall buildings aren’t unheard of in Key West, with hotels along North Roosevelt Boulevard from the Triangle intersection to Seventh Street, condos on South Roosevelt Boulevard and water towers on Stock Island next to the proposed affordable workforce housing site, all measuring close to the city’s maximum height limit.

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen