Council debates bond referendum, calls special meeting today for additional public comment

Council debates bond referendum, calls special meeting Thursday for additional public comments

Supporters and opponents for a November voter referendum enabling General Obligation Bonds of up to $100 million for Key Biscayne resiliency projects will have one more chance to let their feelings be heard -- a special virtual council meeting 6 p.m. Thursday, July 30.

After nearly three hours of often contentious debate during Tuesday’s council meeting, the council voted for the additional meeting at the request of Councilman Luis Lauredo. The council has an end of month deadline to place the issue on the November ballot.

Without the reconsideration of at least one council member who had earlier voted for the referendum plans, the bond referendum will proceed as planned. If approved by votives in November, the money would be available to the village for projects that address sea level rise and flooding, protecting beaches and shorelines and hardening infrastructure.

“I think the community wants more input on this to participate fully in this significant event,” said Lauredo. “It’s the wrong time with very little specificity (on the exact projects and cost). People need more facts.’’

Ed London, a referendum proponent, said he favored the additional meeting after reading social media posts “so far from reality” on the bond issue. Mayor Mike Davey, who supports the referendum, said he had been inundated with citizen comments, and “both sides have compelling points.”

Vice Mayor Brett Moss stressed that the reason for voting in November on the bonds is to take advantage of the high voter turnout expected for the presidential election. This will help ensure that the highest number of voters come forward to vote on the referendum.

In related action Tuesday, the council killed a proposed referendum to amend the Village Charter to exclude the General Obligation Bonds from the village’s $82 million debt cap, which is 1% of taxable property value.

The Debt Cap Charter Amendment “will not be on the November ballot,” said Village Attorney Chad Friedman. “At this time, the General Obligation Bond question is still on the ballot. If approved by the electorate, the General Obligation Bonds will be subject to the Debt Cap limitations within the charter.”

The council can remove the $100 million bond issue from the November ballot if they pass a resolution to rescind the council’s earlier decision during Thursday’s meeting, Friedman said.

Lauredo insisted that a resolution be prepared for consideration at today’s meeting.

Councilmember Ignacio Segurola, who opposed the bond referendum, had some of the strongest statements against the referendum. He called the council “disconnected” from the will of the people, who he expects would defeat the measure at the voting booth. “We would be creating a $100 million line of credit, a runaway train of debt, for a future council. I don’t want to take part in creating a trap and setting a dangerous precedent.”

Referendum supporter Allison McCormick said property values have declined over the past few years partly because there is a perception the village has not properly addressed sea level rise and other long-term concerns in comparison with similar sized cities. “This would send a message” that resiliency concerns are at the forefront of village planning, she said.

Even if Thursday’s special meeting does not result in a vote change, Lauredo said it will “serve as a forum to get people’s views. People feel -- correctly or not -- that this is being railroaded. This could be a good tool for a more civil election.’’

In the end, it was London who seconded the resolution and cast the deciding vote for the additional meeting.

In other action, the council directed Village Manager Andrea Agha to continue with Crandon Boulevard Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Improvements green bike lanes for which the council had earlier accepted a $100,000 grant from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to help fund the project.