Sugarloaf Shores Property Owners Association
Sugarloaf Shores Property Owners Association

Issues we are tracking

The following issues have been raised by members and have the potential  to affect our community.

CANAL RESTORATION UPDATE (Oct. 6, 2016)

Now that the county’s wastewater projects, including our own Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System, are nearing completion, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) has turned its attention to the water quality in our canals. The county has measured the dissolved oxygen (DO), depth, and bottom conditions in the over 500 canals in the county. A reduction of DO is caused by the accumulation and decomposition of organic matter (such as sea grass and mangrove leaves) in a canal.

Nearly all of our canals in Sugarloaf Shores have graded out as Good or Fair. The poorest DO measurements in our area exist in the canals bordering US 1 on either side of Sugarloaf Boulevard, with the canal on the east side of the Boulevard being the worst. The mangrove fringe and reduced water flow in this canal adds to organic build up and the lower DO levels. Similar mangrove fringes exist in Perky and Tarpon Creeks but the tidal flows keep the organic matter moving.

Over the past couple of years, the county has spent more than $7 million on 7 or 8 demonstration projects for restoration of canal water quality. None of these demonstration projects were on Sugarloaf Key. These projects involved different techniques to improve water quality through one or more of installing culverts (increases water flow) or weed gates (keeps organic matter out), dredging muck (decomposed organic matter), or filling with sand (remediation). The results of these projects are now being analyzed, with more water quality testing still required. That said, some of these projects have been judged a success from an aesthetic perspective by those living along the canal. NOTE: The dredging of muck was done in very deep canals (24 feet deep) and backfill brings a canal back up to about 8 feet. This program does not include maintenance dredging to remove silting or improve navigation. A low DO measurement is the trigger.

In regard to our canals closest to US 1 along Sugarloaf Drive on the east side of the Boulevard and behind Driftwood on the west side of the Boulevard, the SSPOA board has been trying to convince FDOT, whose right-of-way covers the entire canal on the east side and half the canal on the west side, to fund a restoration project. This project would involve removing some of the mangroves that are choking the canals and perhaps also replacing the existing culvert which connects those canals under the Boulevard with a larger culvert. To date, FDOT has refused to cooperate with us.  FDOT’s position has been that the canal on the east side of the Boulevard is well-serving its function as a drainage ditch for runoff from the highway.  The SSPOA board’s position has been that these canals were dredged when Sugarloaf Shores was developed and FDOT was at fault for allowing mangroves to infest the canal, choking water flow and causing more vegetation to degrade in the water. We asked the county to put pressure on FDOT, but FDOT has not budged.

The county has announced that the BOCC will host a workshop in Marathon on November 14 addressing the issue of how to fund future canal restoration projects. Since BP money has not materialized as expected, the remaining sources of funding will dictate if and how to shift from demonstration projects to an ongoing restoration program. Among the funding approaches being considered are a countywide property tax to fund both canal restoration and stormwater runoff projects and special taxing districts to fund canal restoration projects at a more localized level. One important issue to be addressed is whether and to what extent canal restoration projects might be funded by dry lot owners.

In order to begin to assess the views of Sugarloaf Shores residents on the issue of canal restoration, we recently circulated a survey. The survey was emailed to 346 recipients, of which 162 (about 47% - not bad at all) have responded to date. More recently, we mailed out 52 surveys to recipients for whom we do not have an email address on file.  The results of the survey (through October 5) are as follows:

  •  Level of concern about water quality in your own canal – 41% extremely concerned, 34% somewhat concerned, 25% not concerned.
  • Concern about water quality in canals other than your own canal – 47% yes, 53% no.
  • Level of concern about canal water quality among dry lot owners – 6 extremely, 4 somewhat, 4 not.
  • Level of concern about water quality in Upper and Lower Sugarloaf Sounds – 36% extremely, 44% somewhat, 20% not.
  • Any conditions/times when water quality is worst – 74% no. Those that said yes mostly mentioned the summer months due to algae blooms resulting from warmer weather and more rain.
  • Do any of our canals need restoration?  72% yes. Of these, 33 recipients mentioned the canals along US 1, 12 mentioned dead-end canals generally, and 6 mentioned the canals on the east side of the Boulevard generally.

So where do we go from here?

The SSPOA board will continue to try to work with FDOT to convince FDOT to pay for restoration of the canals along US 1. These are unique cases because of the existence of a deep-pocket source of funding. If FDOT does not change its position, our next step would be to ask our state representative and state senator to put pressure on FDOT.

The SSPOA board believes that it is premature to address funding of future canal restoration projects until the county finishes its evaluation of the short -term and projected long- term water quality improvements for each demonstration canal. We would also like to see an analysis of cost to measured improvement of the demonstration projects as the basis for an estimation of the countywide cost for restoration.  We also think the impact of the new central wastewater projects on water quality needs to be analyzed.  We are concerned as well that the county needs to focus more on the big picture before we jump into a canal restoration program.  The county should determine what, once the wastewater projects have come fully on line, are the biggest causes of worsening water quality in our nearshore and offshore waters.  Should canals really be the top priority? Even if so, is a canal-by-canal approach the best? Or should there be more focus on more general projects to improve flushing of our waters, such as improving flows under US 1 causeways and under other roads such as Sugarloaf Boulevard or perhaps between the oceans and our nearshore bays?

The SSPOA board recently sent a letter to the county commissioners and staff expressing its position that the county should address these fundamental questions and present its conclusions for public comment before any discussion regarding how to fund canal restoration should take place. These issues could affect whether the county should adopt a canal restoration program at all and, if so, how to implement such a program. The nature and scope of any countywide canal restoration program needs to be determined before decisions are made on how to fund the program.

We intend to send out a follow-up survey covering whether Sugarloaf Shores residents think it is appropriate at this time to address funding of canal restoration projects and, once the time is appropriate, what should be the funding sources? A discussion of canal restoration will be the principal focus of this season’s first SSPOA membership meeting on Tuesday, October 25. If you have views about these issues, please plan on attending this meeting or feel free to contact us sooner. Also, we will be looking for folks who are willing to attend the November 14 BOCC workshop in Marathon to help make our community’s views heard.

Stuart Schaffer, SSPOA Public Policy Committee Chair

Engineers present details for Sugarloaf Blvd. bridge replacement

 

The replacement for the Sugarloaf Blvd. bridge will be a wider, single-span structure free of support columns in the canal. At the March 29, 2016, SSPOA general membership meeting, Monroe County Director of Engineering Services Judith Clarke and representatives from Kisinger Campo and Associates outlined plans for the project requested in the fiscal 2017/18 budget.

 

Construction is expected to take nine-12 months, but could be done more quickly if the contractor agrees to working extended hours or if the county structures the contract to prioritize rapid completion. If county commissioners approve funding, construction could begin as early as fall 2017. One lane would remain open at all times with temporary signals regulating traffic flow similar to bridge work on Geiger Key in 2015.

 

Phased construction calls for the western portion of the bridge to be demolished first. As that side is rebuilt, additional curbing and a five-foot-wide hike/bike lane would be added as an extension of the current path.

 

The northside canal wall requires reconstruction to support the single-span bridge. Improved materials allow for a wider bridge of the same depth without the need for supports in the waterway. During demolition, a work barge would be positioned under the bridge, temporarily impeding, but not entirely shutting down access. During the remainder of the project, boats would be allowed clear passage. The new bridge would allow for a ten-foot vertical clearance based on median water level as surveyed last year including during the exceptionally high king tide. Additional sea-level rise considerations are not yet factored in at this early design stage.

 

Water and sewer pipes would be relocated at the beginning of the project and put back in place at the conclusion with disruption expected to be only an hour each time.

 

SSPOA will keep residents informed of developments via meetings, The Sugarloafer, Facebook, www.sugarloafer.org and emails. Please make sure your current email address is on file for these and other important updates. You can reach SSPOA at mysspoa@gmail.com.

 

For more information regarding the bridge replacement plans, contact Ms. Clarke at 305-295-4329 or clarke-judith@monroecounty-fl.gov.

Nearshore Water Quality Monitoring

Water quality report Sugarloaf Drive
Water report 1 March 2016.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [264.7 KB]
Water quality report Keystone
Water report 2 March 2016.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [263.7 KB]
Water quality report Tamarind
Water report 3 March 2016.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [263.3 KB]
Water quality report Allamanda
Water report 4 March 2016.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [255.7 KB]
Water quality report South Point
Water report 5 March 2016.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [255.6 KB]
Water quality report Bonita
Water report 6 March 2016.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [239.9 KB]

 

Deep Well Update May 2015

 

When the BOCC approved funding for a deep well for the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System, we celebrated – for about a nanosecond.  The turnabout was prompted by the final report of a study that FKAA sponsored at the urging of activist group Dig Deep Cudjoe. 

 

The Big Bang

Led by eminent geologists and advisors to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS), the study was designed to determine whether fresh water injected into the shallow wells would end up in the near shore waters.  The answer:  yes it would – within hours.  The researchers also reported other findings that raise questions about the use of shallow wells on Cudjoe Key.  For example, they detected elements used in automobile antifreeze in the nearshore water, suggesting these came from the unlined landfill upon which the treatment plant sits. 

 

When we first raised alarm bells about injection wells at the CRWS and asked for your support to fund a legal challenge, we believed that the shallow wells could be safely used while a deep well was built.  The shallow wells that had been dug would have been necessary anyway as backup systems for the plant. 

 

Fallout

What we’ve learned since then has us questioning these assumptions.  Another study by a reputable consulting firm has found flaws in recent tests on the wells and projected shallow well injection would cause significant movement of groundwater to the surface waters adjacent to Cudjoe Key.  We now have a new appreciation of the problems the landfill introduces. If either study is to be believed, the initial startup flows will “flush the dump”.

 

Environmental groups and even some within the FKNMS management are now raising questions about the risks of using the shallow wells for the 2 years or more it will take to get a functioning deep well.  They are calling for a scientific evaluation of whether it would be better for the environment to start up the plant using shallow wells or wait until a deep well is completed. 

 

This evaluation need not take long.  The original study was to have taken a closer look at the geological layers under the site, provided baseline water quality data and done some modeling to estimate the impact of injecting hundreds of thousands of gallons a day of freshwater effluent into the limestone.  Unfortunately those components of the study were aborted when the initial findings were reported.

 

FKAA has accelerated its plan to start up the plant immediately.  They now say they will “invite” homeowners on Cudjoe Key to hookup to the sewer system – and decommission their septic systems – in mid-May.  Letters will go out in June to Upper Sugarloaf and to Summerland in July.

 

As a result, your SSPOA board has taken the following position:

The SSPOA board is opposed to the FKAA starting the CRWS plant and is against any use of the shallow wells until a baseline assessment has been conducted and until there is scientific consensus that the use of the shallow wells will not negatively impact the near shore waters and the environment.

 

What are we doing?

 

Calling on FKAA to Slow Down

We are calling on the scientific community, environmental groups, and the public to demand that FKAA slow down.  The BOCC could also exert pressure.  You can certainly help with this by making phone calls and writing letters.

 

Asking the Judge

We have not stopped our litigation.  Although a hearing isn’t scheduled until July 20, the Individual petitioners have filed a motion with the Administrative Law Judge that could result in a ruling that the shallow wells cannot be used in the interim.  We have filed a supporting motion that makes a number of arguments:

 

  • There are several technicalities about the permits that can render them invalid:whether they were for operation or merely construction, whether they were publicized properly, whether renewal permits are valid if the original permits are being challenged, etc.

 

  • The law is clear that a plant with a design capacity over a million gallons a day requires a deep well.DEP does not have the leeway to interpret the law as it has and has thus exceeded its legal authority.We’ve offered additional case law to support this claim.

 

  • The law also requires reasonable assurance that no harm will be done.The two recent reports are new information for the judge to consider when deciding whether there is enough reasonable assurance to allow the use of shallow wells.

 

We hope the judge will see that FKAA’s new and aggressive startup schedule is an attempt to preempt a potentially negative ruling coming out of a July hearing.  We hope he rules that the permits aren’t valid while they are being challenged and that FKAA cannot start up the plant without them.

 

Calling on DEP Directly

There is one last step DEP must take before FKAA can turn on the plant.  It must approve FKAA’s recent submission of a Notice of Completion of the system.  We are asking DEP staff to consider our input before doing so.

 

The two studies mentioned above provide convincing evidence that, minimally, an initial baseline water quality study should be conducted before the wells start injecting effluent and that a more robust monitoring program be put in place during start-up.  We have asked DEP to seriously review these studies.  And of course we hope they reconsider their findings of reasonable assurance about water quality as required by the law.

 

We’ve also raised questions about FKAA’s rush to start up the plant. 

 

  • In its Notice of Completion, FKAA’s current consulting engineer states that the plant is designed for a startup flow of 150,000 gallons per day and goes on to say “it will be challenging to operate the plant at lower flows than this”.

     

  • FKAA predicts it will take around 6 months to achieve this minimum flow – starting in May of 2015.(This is twice the speed of the startup flow projections in the original permit.)We think this is extremely unrealistic.Their plan involves sending “invitation” letters to Cudjoe, Upper Sugarloaf and Summerland Keys in the middle of the summer.It is unlikely seasonal residents will act upon these letters until their return in the late fall and unlikely that connections will even start before the first of the year.Add to this the growing support among these homeowners for calls to delay hooking up before either the Sanctuary scientists review and approve startup with shallow wells, or the deep well is built.

 

  • The original plan involved connecting 4 of the 8 islands in the system at once.The current plan is to start with Cudjoe 6 weeks before Upper Sugarloaf and 10 weeks before Summerland.We’ve questioned the rationale for this “trickle in” strategy in light of the need to get to the minimum 150,000 gpd as soon as possible.

 

Conversations among all parties continue and this is all in flux as the countdown begins.  High drama in the Florida Keys.  Could it be the next Netflix series?

 

Deep Well Update May 2015

 

When the BOCC approved funding for a deep well for the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System, we celebrated – for about a nanosecond.  The turnabout was prompted by the final report of a study that FKAA sponsored at the urging of activist group Dig Deep Cudjoe. 

 

The Big Bang

Led by eminent geologists and advisors to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS), the study was designed to determine whether fresh water injected into the shallow wells would end up in the near shore waters.  The answer:  yes it would – within hours.  The researchers also reported other findings that raise questions about the use of shallow wells on Cudjoe Key.  For example, they detected elements used in automobile antifreeze in the nearshore water, suggesting these came from the unlined landfill upon which the treatment plant sits. 

 

When we first raised alarm bells about injection wells at the CRWS and asked for your support to fund a legal challenge, we believed that the shallow wells could be safely used while a deep well was built.  The shallow wells that had been dug would have been necessary anyway as backup systems for the plant. 

 

Fallout

What we’ve learned since then has us questioning these assumptions.  Another study by a reputable consulting firm has found flaws in recent tests on the wells and projected shallow well injection would cause significant movement of groundwater to the surface waters adjacent to Cudjoe Key.  We now have a new appreciation of the problems the landfill introduces. If either study is to be believed, the initial startup flows will “flush the dump”.

 

Environmental groups and even some within the FKNMS management are now raising questions about the risks of using the shallow wells for the 2 years or more it will take to get a functioning deep well.  They are calling for a scientific evaluation of whether it would be better for the environment to start up the plant using shallow wells or wait until a deep well is completed. 

 

This evaluation need not take long.  The original study was to have taken a closer look at the geological layers under the site, provided baseline water quality data and done some modeling to estimate the impact of injecting hundreds of thousands of gallons a day of freshwater effluent into the limestone.  Unfortunately those components of the study were aborted when the initial findings were reported.

 

FKAA has accelerated its plan to start up the plant immediately.  They now say they will “invite” homeowners on Cudjoe Key to hookup to the sewer system – and decommission their septic systems – in mid-May.  Letters will go out in June to Upper Sugarloaf and to Summerland in July.

 

As a result, your SSPOA board has taken the following position:

The SSPOA board is opposed to the FKAA starting the CRWS plant and is against any use of the shallow wells until a baseline assessment has been conducted and until there is scientific consensus that the use of the shallow wells will not negatively impact the near shore waters and the environment.

 

What are we doing?

 

Calling on FKAA to Slow Down

We are calling on the scientific community, environmental groups, and the public to demand that FKAA slow down.  The BOCC could also exert pressure.  You can certainly help with this by making phone calls and writing letters.

 

Asking the Judge

We have not stopped our litigation.  Although a hearing isn’t scheduled until July 20, the Individual petitioners have filed a motion with the Administrative Law Judge that could result in a ruling that the shallow wells cannot be used in the interim.  We have filed a supporting motion that makes a number of arguments:

 

  • There are several technicalities about the permits that can render them invalid:whether they were for operation or merely construction, whether they were publicized properly, whether renewal permits are valid if the original permits are being challenged, etc.

 

  • The law is clear that a plant with a design capacity over a million gallons a day requires a deep well.DEP does not have the leeway to interpret the law as it has and has thus exceeded its legal authority.We’ve offered additional case law to support this claim.

 

  • The law also requires reasonable assurance that no harm will be done.The two recent reports are new information for the judge to consider when deciding whether there is enough reasonable assurance to allow the use of shallow wells.

 

We hope the judge will see that FKAA’s new and aggressive startup schedule is an attempt to preempt a potentially negative ruling coming out of a July hearing.  We hope he rules that the permits aren’t valid while they are being challenged and that FKAA cannot start up the plant without them.

 

Calling on DEP Directly

There is one last step DEP must take before FKAA can turn on the plant.  It must approve FKAA’s recent submission of a Notice of Completion of the system.  We are asking DEP staff to consider our input before doing so.

 

The two studies mentioned above provide convincing evidence that, minimally, an initial baseline water quality study should be conducted before the wells start injecting effluent and that a more robust monitoring program be put in place during start-up.  We have asked DEP to seriously review these studies.  And of course we hope they reconsider their findings of reasonable assurance about water quality as required by the law.

 

We’ve also raised questions about FKAA’s rush to start up the plant. 

 

  • In its Notice of Completion, FKAA’s current consulting engineer states that the plant is designed for a startup flow of 150,000 gallons per day and goes on to say “it will be challenging to operate the plant at lower flows than this”.

     

  • FKAA predicts it will take around 6 months to achieve this minimum flow – starting in May of 2015.(This is twice the speed of the startup flow projections in the original permit.)We think this is extremely unrealistic.Their plan involves sending “invitation” letters to Cudjoe, Upper Sugarloaf and Summerland Keys in the middle of the summer.It is unlikely seasonal residents will act upon these letters until their return in the late fall and unlikely that connections will even start before the first of the year.Add to this the growing support among these homeowners for calls to delay hooking up before either the Sanctuary scientists review and approve startup with shallow wells, or the deep well is built.

 

  • The original plan involved connecting 4 of the 8 islands in the system at once.The current plan is to start with Cudjoe 6 weeks before Upper Sugarloaf and 10 weeks before Summerland.We’ve questioned the rationale for this “trickle in” strategy in light of the need to get to the minimum 150,000 gpd as soon as possible.

 

Conversations among all parties continue and this is all in flux as the countdown begins.  High drama in the Florida Keys.  Could it be the next Netflix series?

 

Deep Well Update May 2015

 

When the BOCC approved funding for a deep well for the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System, we celebrated – for about a nanosecond.  The turnabout was prompted by the final report of a study that FKAA sponsored at the urging of activist group Dig Deep Cudjoe. 

 

The Big Bang

Led by eminent geologists and advisors to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS), the study was designed to determine whether fresh water injected into the shallow wells would end up in the near shore waters.  The answer:  yes it would – within hours.  The researchers also reported other findings that raise questions about the use of shallow wells on Cudjoe Key.  For example, they detected elements used in automobile antifreeze in the nearshore water, suggesting these came from the unlined landfill upon which the treatment plant sits. 

 

When we first raised alarm bells about injection wells at the CRWS and asked for your support to fund a legal challenge, we believed that the shallow wells could be safely used while a deep well was built.  The shallow wells that had been dug would have been necessary anyway as backup systems for the plant. 

 

Fallout

What we’ve learned since then has us questioning these assumptions.  Another study by a reputable consulting firm has found flaws in recent tests on the wells and projected shallow well injection would cause significant movement of groundwater to the surface waters adjacent to Cudjoe Key.  We now have a new appreciation of the problems the landfill introduces. If either study is to be believed, the initial startup flows will “flush the dump”.

 

Environmental groups and even some within the FKNMS management are now raising questions about the risks of using the shallow wells for the 2 years or more it will take to get a functioning deep well.  They are calling for a scientific evaluation of whether it would be better for the environment to start up the plant using shallow wells or wait until a deep well is completed. 

 

This evaluation need not take long.  The original study was to have taken a closer look at the geological layers under the site, provided baseline water quality data and done some modeling to estimate the impact of injecting hundreds of thousands of gallons a day of freshwater effluent into the limestone.  Unfortunately those components of the study were aborted when the initial findings were reported.

 

FKAA has accelerated its plan to start up the plant immediately.  They now say they will “invite” homeowners on Cudjoe Key to hookup to the sewer system – and decommission their septic systems – in mid-May.  Letters will go out in June to Upper Sugarloaf and to Summerland in July.

 

As a result, your SSPOA board has taken the following position:

The SSPOA board is opposed to the FKAA starting the CRWS plant and is against any use of the shallow wells until a baseline assessment has been conducted and until there is scientific consensus that the use of the shallow wells will not negatively impact the near shore waters and the environment.

 

What are we doing?

 

Calling on FKAA to Slow Down

We are calling on the scientific community, environmental groups, and the public to demand that FKAA slow down.  The BOCC could also exert pressure.  You can certainly help with this by making phone calls and writing letters.

 

Asking the Judge

We have not stopped our litigation.  Although a hearing isn’t scheduled until July 20, the Individual petitioners have filed a motion with the Administrative Law Judge that could result in a ruling that the shallow wells cannot be used in the interim.  We have filed a supporting motion that makes a number of arguments:

 

  • There are several technicalities about the permits that can render them invalid:whether they were for operation or merely construction, whether they were publicized properly, whether renewal permits are valid if the original permits are being challenged, etc.

 

  • The law is clear that a plant with a design capacity over a million gallons a day requires a deep well.DEP does not have the leeway to interpret the law as it has and has thus exceeded its legal authority.We’ve offered additional case law to support this claim.

 

  • The law also requires reasonable assurance that no harm will be done.The two recent reports are new information for the judge to consider when deciding whether there is enough reasonable assurance to allow the use of shallow wells.

 

We hope the judge will see that FKAA’s new and aggressive startup schedule is an attempt to preempt a potentially negative ruling coming out of a July hearing.  We hope he rules that the permits aren’t valid while they are being challenged and that FKAA cannot start up the plant without them.

 

Calling on DEP Directly

There is one last step DEP must take before FKAA can turn on the plant.  It must approve FKAA’s recent submission of a Notice of Completion of the system.  We are asking DEP staff to consider our input before doing so.

 

The two studies mentioned above provide convincing evidence that, minimally, an initial baseline water quality study should be conducted before the wells start injecting effluent and that a more robust monitoring program be put in place during start-up.  We have asked DEP to seriously review these studies.  And of course we hope they reconsider their findings of reasonable assurance about water quality as required by the law.

 

We’ve also raised questions about FKAA’s rush to start up the plant. 

 

  • In its Notice of Completion, FKAA’s current consulting engineer states that the plant is designed for a startup flow of 150,000 gallons per day and goes on to say “it will be challenging to operate the plant at lower flows than this”.

     

  • FKAA predicts it will take around 6 months to achieve this minimum flow – starting in May of 2015.(This is twice the speed of the startup flow projections in the original permit.)We think this is extremely unrealistic.Their plan involves sending “invitation” letters to Cudjoe, Upper Sugarloaf and Summerland Keys in the middle of the summer.It is unlikely seasonal residents will act upon these letters until their return in the late fall and unlikely that connections will even start before the first of the year.Add to this the growing support among these homeowners for calls to delay hooking up before either the Sanctuary scientists review and approve startup with shallow wells, or the deep well is built.

 

  • The original plan involved connecting 4 of the 8 islands in the system at once.The current plan is to start with Cudjoe 6 weeks before Upper Sugarloaf and 10 weeks before Summerland.We’ve questioned the rationale for this “trickle in” strategy in light of the need to get to the minimum 150,000 gpd as soon as possible.

 

Conversations among all parties continue and this is all in flux as the countdown begins.  High drama in the Florida Keys.  Could it be the next Netflix series?

Overseas Heritage Trail

 

 

 

                                              Sugarloaf Shores Property Owners Association

                                             17045 Overseas Highway  Box 9

                                             Sugarloaf Shores, Florida 33042-3681

 

 

 

March 23, 2015

 

Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Mail Station #550

3900 Commonwealth Blvd.

Tallahassee, FL 32399-3000

 

Re: Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail

 

The Sugarloaf Shores Property Owners Association (SSPOA) urges the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to complete the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail from MM 15.5 to MM 20 in a timely manner as a matter of both recreation and safety.

 

As one of the largest property owner associations in Monroe County, SSPOA considers the trail to be of great importance for the safe passage of cyclists from the Bow channel bridge to the existing trail installed just north of Bay Point at MM 15.5. Currently, cyclists must share the busy highway, traveling on the narrow bike line for a distance of 5 miles.

 

As we understand it, the project was halted on Lower and Upper Sugarloaf Keys due to a lack of funding. We just learned that the FDEP has filed for a grant which would provide the needed funding to complete this section of the Heritage Trail. While we understand budgetary constraints, as well as the challenge of adding fill between Crane Blvd and the Harris Gap Channel bridge to accommodate the trail, please understand that these challenges should not postpone the project but should prioritize it.

 

Safety is the utmost concern in our area. In December 2014, an experienced bicyclist was hit as he entered Lower Sugarloaf Key on the shoulder of U.S. 1 at Mile Marker 16 shortly after the FKOHT ended. The 48-year-old former professional athlete from Washington State lost his life and an elderly Sugarloaf Key resident was arrested. Continuation of the trail through this portion of Monroe County might well have saved Christopher Dykos life.

 

Our visitors and residents frequently face danger as they bike through this section where work has been halted. We encourage you to complete the trail to provide a safe scenic route for all to enjoy.

 

Sincerely,

 

signed

 

Chuck Licis

President

County Height Limits

Height Limit Exceptions – March 24, 2015 County Development Review Committee meeting

 

Monroe County planners reopened the public comment period for proposed exceptions to the county 35 foot height limit. The proposed changes to the Comprehensive Plan were originally presented in the December 10, 2014 BOCC meeting and were pulled out of the Comprehensive Plan update transmittal for further public input. Here is a link to the original staff proposal:

(http://fl-monroecounty.civicplus.com/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/5741?fileID=5601)

 

Based on the information available, your SSPOA board of directors approved the following positions which were presented at this meeting:

  1. The 35 foot height limit should not be abandoned.

  2. If elevation above base flood elevation (freeboard) is beneficial, more public outreach is needed to explain the need and consequences.

  3. Any exception for elevating existing buildings should apply to ‘elevation as is’ not ‘demolish and rebuild.’

  4. Freeboard for new construction is opposed by SSPOA (at this time).

  5. Height exemptions for affordable housing are opposed by SSPOA.

  6. SSPOA is neutral on height exemptions for Ocean Reef as long as it does not affect the rest of Monroe County.

 

The next step will be review of all of the public input taken at this meeting and follow up DRC meetings as necessary to allow public input on revisions that may occur.

Canal Restoration

Monroe County Canal Restoration – Public outreach meeting – March 24, 2015

 

A standing room only crowd from throughout the Lower Keys listened to county staff and consultants explain the causes and potential cures for deteriorating water quality in almost half of the county’s 502 canals. Several water quality improvement pilot projects were reviewed along with ‘best practices’ for treating your canal like a back yard swimming pool. The meeting wrapped up with an overview of a new ‘citizen testing program’ that empowers individuals to routinely test canal water quality. The county web page is a source for additional information.

 

A tutorial on ‘how to view your canal’ started with downloading and opening Google Earth on your device, then go the Monroe County ‘Canal Restoration’ web site page(http://www.monroecounty-fl.gov/index.aspx?NID=598   )and scroll to the bottom until you see:

 

 

View Canal Restoration Data Files With Google Earth:


1.) You will need to download Google Earth. It's Free. Download It Here

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Community Character Project

At the April 27, 2015 SSPOA General Membership meeting the final version of the Community Character Vission Statement was passed unanimousley by the members.

 

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Sugarloaf Shores Property Owners Association

Community Character - Vision Statement

April 27, 2015

 

This Vision Statement is intended to document the unique community character of Lower Sugarloaf.

SSPOA Goals

Among the goals of the Sugarloaf Shores Property Owners Association (SSPOA) is to maintain property values and quality of life by creating a strong social fabric and protecting our community character.

We strive to protect, preserve, and enjoy our natural environment, wildlife and open space and recreational opportunities while preserving the quality of life our community has enjoyed for decades.

 

Summary

The current day character of Lower Sugarloaf differs from other islands in the Lower Keys. The amalgamation of resort, small scale retail and deed restricted residential of Lower Sugarloaf creates the feel of a small village alongside the curve in a two lane highway.  There are no garish signs or glaring lights. The blinking yellow traffic light and the small volunteer fire station complete our small town look.

 

The well defined residential portions of this community were established when the Crane brothers Robert and Radford established Sugarloaf Shores.  Radford Crane said, “We are building a quality community.” “We want to attract the type of people who can contribute to a community of this kind.” With a strong community association, property owners and residents know each other and work together to maintain the attractive streets, homes and yards.

 

Sugarloaf Shores is a community of relatively large lots, most of which are waterfront, and lush tropical landscaping.  The community cultivates at its own expense tropical landscaping on common areas.  The visual appeal of neighborhood landscaping is a key attraction and selling point.

 

The decades old Sugarloaf Lodge anchors the business side of this community. Over the years, businesses in the small commercial building fronting the highway have provided services to the resort guests and the local community. Unlike many areas in the Keys, tourism on Lower Sugarloaf is low key. Most guests at the resort are drawn to this area by the unique backcountry fishing and birding opportunities as well as the natural areas along Loop Road.

 

Lower Keys Livable CommuniKeys Plan

The Monroe County CommuniKeys Plans are intended balance County wide and local community needs. Each of the Florida Keys has a unique character from the urban settings of Marathon and Key West to the remote and isolated islands like No Name Key. Sugarloaf Shores and Cudjoe Gardens stand out from other Lower Keys communities because development was guided with a plan and deed restrictions that established a distinct community character: a character we still enjoy today.

 

The Lower Keys CommuniKeys Plan distilled the characteristics of the island communities into one plan.  In doing so, the similar characteristics formed the basis for the main body of the plan and the differences were retained in the plans appendices. Using the input from our community, this document reconstitutes some of the main characteristics of Lower Sugarloaf.

 

 

Future Land Use and Development

Our community recognizes the potential for development on remaining vacant land and redevelopment of the Sugarloaf Lodge property. Some parts of the Lodge property would benefit from such redevelopment however there is a strong desire within the community to maintain the current land uses and density. Since this small destination resort has been an anchor within our community for decades, we want to see the size and scale of any redevelopment retained. 

 

Improved subdivisions should remain residential development only - no commercial. Deed restrictions on development and uses should be enforced. Except for the property at the entrance to South Point (already zoned suburban commercial) US1 should remain the dividing line between commercial and residential uses, especially at Sugarloaf Boulevard.  If developed, the suburban commercial property at the entrance to South Point should be compatible with and enhance the residential character of and serve the needs of the immediate community. The purpose of the SC district is to establish areas for commercial uses designed and intended primarily to serve the needs of the immediate planning area in which they are located. This district should be established at locations convenient and accessible to residential areas without use of U.S. 1.

 

If the Sugarloaf Lodge property is redeveloped it should retains its Destination Resort, the small resort hotel character of the site and amenities should continue to minimize off-site impacts. Density and intensity should not be increased.

 

Provide protection for non-conforming commercial uses on the suburban commercial property east of the lodge that provides services for the community. Redevelopment of this suburban commercial area should encourage the utilization of the existing lodge, marina and restaurant and provide small community oriented businesses rather than drive by tourist shopping. We encourage the creation of a service road with the establishment of any community center zoning. Do not encourage larger aircraft at the Sugarloaf airstrip.

 

SSPOA encourages the County to maintain the 35’ height limit for all buildings, and grant no variances for either residential or commercial development. Adequate use of property is possible while building above flood elevations. As mentioned above, SSPOA encourages the maintenance and enforcement of existing tier designations, zoning and land uses and minimizing the density of new development.

 

Sugarloaf Fire House

The Sugarloaf Volunteer Fire Department was organized by the community in 1966 to provide primary emergency response for Sugarloaf Shores and mutual aid to surrounding communities. Using land on the north side of the highway, sold to the volunteer organization by the Rimersberg Coal Company (the developer of Sugarloaf Shores), the community built, equiped, and staffed a small firehouse with a community meeting room on the top floor. In the early 1980s the building was enlarged by the community, and over the years the Sugarloaf Firehouse became known as station 10 in the Monroe County Fire and Rescue organizational structure with the volunteers providing initial fire response and emergency medical response coming from station 9 on Big Coppit and station 11 on Cudjoe.  With the number of volunteers dwindling, and the capability to respond diminished, in 2012 the County placed career firefighters at station 10.

 

As upgrades to fire stations in the Lower Keys occur, our community hopes to see the county replace the old building at station 10 and augment full time staffing with a life support vehicle and EMT personnel. The new building should contain the meeting room that has served our community for decades.  This redevelopment is part of the Lower Keys CommuniKeys Plan and should be included in any community center overlay zoning, should it be created in the future.

 

The community encourages continued County contributions to the maintenance of the existing fire station that continues to provide emergency service and is used by the community for many functions including a voting place and our community meeting place.

 

Signs and lighting

The size and low elevation of signage should be maintained with lighting low so that it will not impact the dark night sky or neighbors homes. Lighting should be the lowest practical intensity and be directed so as to illuminate the sign only. Flashing signs or signs with electronically changing content should be discouraged.

 

Poles and Towers

With our electric power being generated on the mainland we recognize that poles carrying electric cables from the mainland are currently essential.  Wherever possible we encourage running these service lines underground where and when feasible to minimize visual clutter and improve service during weather events.  We strongly discourage additional structures, including cell phone towers that protrude above the existing visual horizon of developed property and/or tree line.  The placement of these towers, should they be necessary should be minimized and located away from view. Where a conflict is perceived between any public service requiring new structures and community aesthetics, we expect community input and concurrence in the planning stages to assure that that all possible alternatives have been considered, that tradeoffs between competing interests are optimized and negative impacts are minimized. 

 

Environment

The wide open palm tree lined right of way of Sugarloaf Boulevard and the pedestrian bicycle path should be maintained. Preservation of the natural areas such as Sammy’s Creek and the Johnson Property should include low traffic access and enforcement of the rules that preserve the natural environment, infrastructure and resources.

 

Public Utilities and Services

 

  • Provide coordination between Monroe County and FDOT to unplug the culvert and clear the canal on each side to reestablish water flow between Upper and Lower Sugarloaf Sounds, and improved storm water runoff at U.S. 1 and Sugarloaf Boulevard.

 

  • With the introduction of central sewers, encourage the conversion of onsite septic systems to cisterns and / or gray water reuse systems.

 

  • Encourage planning that assures the ongoing provision of emergency and routine services with the possibility of Sea level Rise making portions of our roads impassable at times.

 

 

  • Provide enhanced monitoring and better enforcement of transient rental rules.

 

Recreation Open Space

 

  • Maintain a careful balance between providing recreational opportunities for residents while not inviting a large number of tourists into our residential area to take advantage of recreational facilities.

 

  • Give consideration to the locating parking for non residents who use the US1 and Sugarloaf Boulevard bike paths. If provided, this should be combined with commuter parking provided as part of a community center overlay.

 

  • Recognize that the Scenic Trail planned for the Oceanside of US1 will bring cyclists, runners and pedestrians to the Sugarloaf Boulevard after miles of undeveloped roadside in either direction.

 

 

  • Continue to limit use of Loop Road to pedestrian and bicycle passive recreation. Maintain a high level of monitoring and enforcement in this area. Stop allowing sports car races that disturb the wildlife and limit the use by residents and tourists.

 

Transportation

  • Maintain a high priority for highway safety and traffic management. Promote safer left and right turn capability at our main intersections with US1. The community has long desired a traffic light at Sugarloaf Boulevard.

 

  • Recognize the interaction of motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians at these intersections and consider placing the heritage trail on the north side of US1 where amenities are located. If the south side is used, provide a safe means for trail users to cross US1 to access the amenities at Sugarloaf Lodge. Utilize options such as crosswalks, pedestrian activated traffic signals, and / or vehicle sensor activated traffic signals.

 

  • Maintain and improve the sound barrier between U.S. 1 and the homes on the Oceanside. Continue to encourage protection of the native plantings and landscaping especially along Sugarloaf Boulevard, South Point Drive, and the US-1 corridor

 

 

Contact Us Today!

Sugarloaf Shores Property Owners Association
17045 Overseas Highway

Box 9
Sugarloaf Shores, FL 33042-3681

E-mail: mysspoa@gmail.com

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