Chris Sante’s Affordable Houses at 97 Orange Lane

There are six small homes along US One and Orange Lane on Plantation Key, all deed-restricted as affordable housing. They were developed by Chris Sante while on Village Council. All were sold to buyers who received $10,000 first-time homeowner loans from the Village for the down payment. Sante had a creative way to assure a profit that other developers may not be able to utilize.  

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. So, how did Sante accomplish this transaction?

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.

Orange Lane Case Study Documentation