Chris Sante’s Affordable Houses at 97 Orange Lane

West Marine

Back in 2016, West Marine wanted to build a retail store in Islamorada and submitted an application for a major conditional use.  One issue: requiring adherence to the Village code that affordable housing be provided for the development in an amount proportionate to the need that the development creates.

The planning department provided three options to accomplish this based on Village code:

  • Build deed restricted affordable housing for the employees to be hired,
  • Donate land to the Village that is suitable for affordable housing or
  • Pay a $104,578.90 in lieu fee to the Village affordable housing fund.  

Instead of using one of the three options suggested by the Village, West Marine bought “affordable housing credits” from Councilman Chris Sante for $200,000 with the consent of the Village planning staff.  

There is no such term as “affordable housing credit” and no process for using “affordable housing credits” in the Village code or Village Comprehensive Plan.

On March 17, 2017, the Village Council voted 4-0 to approve the Affordable Housing Mitigation plan which included using Councilman Sante’s $200,000 “affordable housing credits.” Councilman Sante declared a conflict and didn’t vote.

Also on March 17, 2017, the Village Council approved the major conditional use requested by West Marine to build the 9972 sq ft retail store.  The vote was 5-0. Councilman Sante did not declare a conflict.

Click here to see the contract between Sante and West Marine for $200,000 obtained via a public records request from the Village, even though there was a confidentiality agreement as part of the contract.