Florida Keys

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On the Overseas Highway in the Keys, there's only one drawbridge left. And its end may be nearing.

Danny Rivero / WLRN

In the hunt for housing affordability, mobile home parks have been an oasis. But developers are eyeing them, increasing rents and forcing some residents to leave.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

The Key West city charter says voters have to approve any deal for the city to buy real estate. And Key West voters have a decision to make.

FWC Corals Program

Five years ago, a new coral disease was found right off downtown Miami. It has now spread through the Florida reef tract, from Martin County down past Key West. In response, scientists are taking unprecedented measures to make sure some coral survives, at least in captivity.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Anyone who has ever driven to or from Key West has crossed the Cow Key Bridge. It's the only road on or off of the island.

Now the state says the bridge's decks and beams need to be replaced on the two spans (one outgoing, one incoming) that connect Key West with the rest of the world.

Jessica Bakeman / WLRN News

Hundreds of people enjoyed food, drinks and music from the Florida Keys at the state Capitol on Tuesday evening, the culmination of an annual lobbying trip that Monroe County elected officials and business owners use to share local priorities with state lawmakers.

City mayors, school board members, community college administrators and restauranteurs told legislators throughout the day about their biggest concern: affordable housing.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Four Keys cities and Monroe County have sent FEMA bills for more than $91 million from Hurricane Irma. A year and a half after the storm, they have received less than 12 percent of the money.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

After Hurricane Irma slammed the Florida Keys in September of 2017, lots of volunteers came to help with clean up. Almost a year and a half later, there's still work to do repairing homes, and volunteers who want to help.

The challenge has been finding them a place to stay.

Monroe County Code Compliance

If you look for vacation rentals in the Florida Keys, you may notice a lot of boats offered as lodging. Now Monroe County has brought a code compliance case against one of the owners.

Michael Dewitt says he's put $130,000 into fixing up his 40-foot sportfishing boat, docked behind his house on Little Torch Key.

So when a property manager approached him about renting it as a vacation rental on Airbnb, he agreed.

"It sat behind my house empty, I had a couple of neighbors that were doing the exact same thing - that are still doing the exact same thing," he said.

Compassion for a hungry stray kitten led to a nip on the finger — and also took a bite out of Jeannette Parker's wallet.

In a rural area just outside Florida's Everglades National Park, Parker spotted the cat wandering along the road. It looked skinny and sick, and when Parker, a wildlife biologist, offered up some tuna she had in her car, the cat bit her finger.

"It broke my skin with his teeth," she recalls.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

The Florida Keys could be facing a deadline that's unprecedented in South Florida. Four years from now, there might not be any more homes that can be built in the Keys.

The state has a rule that the island chain has to be able to get everyone out 24 hours before a hurricane hits. And there’s just one road out. So there’s a limit to how many people are allowed to live in the Keys.

That means people who live in the Keys — and especially the people who would like to build there in the future — are trying to figure out what to do.

David Salay / Bender & Associates Architects

The Key West Art and Historical Society already maintains some of the island's most important historic buildings, like the lighthouse and the Custom House. And now the group is taking on another.

John Teets

Finding an affordable home in the Florida Keys is a real challenge. And so is finding a home for the Key West homeless shelter.

Key West has had a shelter next to the Monroe County jail on Stock Island for more than a decade. It's called KOTS - which stands for Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter. It houses about 150 people in seven temporary structures.

The city agreed to move KOTS, after residents of a condo and marina complex next door sued. And the sheriff wanted the land to build housing for employees.

Environmental Protection Agency

When Key West city commissioners approved a ban on the sale of some sunscreens, some said it wasn't just to protect the reef that has protected the island for centuries.

Commissioner Jimmy Weekley said Key West is leading the continental U.S., and is already receiving global attention for its action.

"Key West, the 3-by-5-mile island, is going to take a major step to help preserve our environment — the environment of every citizen of the world," he said.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Key West has become the first place in the mainland U.S. to ban the sale of sunscreens containing two chemicals that have been found in some studies to harm corals.

"There are thousands and thousands of various alternative sunscreens that can be used. But we only have one reef," said Commissioner Jimmy Weekley, one of the sponsors of the ordinance.

It won final approval by a 6-1 vote Tuesday night.

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