duck key

An Information Guide to Duck Key in the Florida Keys



























Hats off to Sherry Popham for standing up to the County Commissioners.

This February 2008 Duck Key resident Sherry Popham resigned from her position as a Monroe County Planning Commissioner. Sherry Popham quit in protest saying she no longer wants “to be part of a facade of due process which the Planning Commission conveniently provides” the County Commission.

News reports quote Popham, “The apparent lack of transparency and due process has more than once characterized the decision making of our county's highest level of elected officials,” Popham also stated that back-room decisions by the County Commission has “marginalized” the public.


The Planning Commission and Planning staff had recommended to the County Commission a plan designed to protect the unincorporated county's working waterfront. Instead the County Commissioners known as the "Gang of Three" voted approval for a plan which incorporated last minute amendment changes to its land-use plan despite objections from Popham and planning staff.

The seven pages of amendments were presented by a waterfront developer's attorney, Jerry Coleman. The amendments favoring the developer, New Stock Island Properties, were presented with no opportunity for county planning staff review yet the gang of three voted for approval with commissioners George Neugent and Sylvia Murphy dissenting.

The Key West Citizen reported "Sonny McCoy, Dixie Spehar and Mario Di Gennaro voted yes without even reading what they were voting on, essentially giving the go-ahead for a specific development that would include a hotel, upscale housing, a retail area, restaurants and some commercial fishing" on Stock Island.

The amendments to what amounts to a site specific development plan which will produce a commercial complex seemed more concerned with approval of hotel and retail space, housing, and restaurants than preservation of waterfront access and maintaining the Florida Keys commercial fishing industry. The approval of hotel space by the Commissioners should raise eyebrows since there is currently a moratorium on new hotels in the unincorporated area of Monroe County.

The troubling amendments also become part of the County's proposed land use plan nto be sent to the State's department of Community Affairs..

Letters to the editor, editorials and news article have been critical of the Commission decision because the amendments removed the phrase “no net loss” of traditional waterfront uses from the ordinance and allowed the building height on waterfront construction to be measured 35 feet above the base flood elevation. Under current restrictions a building's height may is limited to 35 feet from ground level. Critics believe the amendment could add up to 12 feet in height to buildings constructed along the waterfront. The changes also Increased density on waterfront parcels, by including submerged lands in density calculations.

The Key West Citizen quotes Popham as stating the changes from the Planning Board's proposal “ . . . provided the property owners with all the zoning changes, allowing them to replace working waterfront with high-end development which will exceed the Keys' cherished height restriction. . ." Popham continued that the changes removed "the only language powerful enough to insure the retention ... of what little recreational and commercial access still remains in the Keys.”


Pictured above is a portion of Key West Citizen cartoon by Jon C. McIntosh. McIntosh draws the political cartoons for the “Key West Citizen.” For background on Jon McIntosh go to bio.

The cartoon shows insider real estate interests controlling a puppet which looks strangely like Monroe County Mayor Mario Di Gennaro .

"Mario" in turn is pulling the strings of marionette Colemen who offers up a Land use plan identified as "Blatantly Self-serving amendments". At the Commission meeting Mario Di Gennaro made the motion to include all of the attorneys' amendments in the ordinance.

Commissioner Di Gennaro stated he believes in "people's property rights," and that property owners should not be limited in the free use of their property. Popham believes that property rights do not quarentee a change in zoning from commercial working waterfronts to redevelopment with hotel use, upscale housing, retail areas, and restaurants.

On a lighter note

Residents of Duck Key can see Sherry Popham and her husband Bruce jogging on Plantation Island in the morning before going to work at the Marathon Boat Yard which they own.

In June in the summer of 2007 at the ninth annual Tropical Fruit Fiesta in Key West Sherry Popham's pineapple was judged the best homegrown fruit in terms of aroma and appearance, taste and texture.

What was the grand prize in the Tropical Fruit Fiesta's Homegrown Fruit Contest. Designed and donated by Neil Goldberg of Sunlion Jewelry in Key West a tropical-fruit charm bracelet was Sherry's prize.

In May of 2007 Bruce Popham received an Environmental Hero Award from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).



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