Scott signs bill allowing 200 more dorm rooms at Keys college

kwadlow@keynoter.com

March 11, 2016

State lawmakers gave Florida Keys Community College permission to add living space for an additional 200 students but won’t pay for pay for construction.

The bill, SB 576, was approved unanimously by the Florida Legislature and signed into law Thursday by Gov. Rick Scott. It allows the college on Stock Island to have up to 300 beds for on-campus housing of students or staff; the campus already has a 100-bed dorm.

As approved, the bill authorizes FKCC to add another 200 beds without affecting Florida Keys building limits imposed by the state under the Area of Critical State Concern law.

Administrators and college trustees sought approval to add 300 beds for a total of 400. That maximum number of beds was lowered to 300 by legislators.

Lawmakers added a provision stating: “State funds and tuition and fee revenues may not be used for construction, debt service payments, maintenance, or operation of such dormitories.”

That apparently would require the college to seek some type of public-private partnership.

“That was expected,” FKCC spokeswoman Amber Ernst-Leonard said Friday. “Step 1 was getting the permission.”

“We’re happy to receive this permission, and grateful the governor and legislators recognize the challenges of our college students, particularly those in the Florida Keys,” Ernst-Leonard said.

Adding beds would allow more students from outside the Lower Keys to register for FKCC’s marine science and nursing programs, officials have said.

“It’s obviously a worthy enough cause,” state Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) said as she filed the bill in the Florida House before the legislative session.

The act also gives the college approval to build a dormitory up to 45 feet in height “if the dormitories are otherwise consistent with the comprehensive [land-use] plan.”

Building codes in Monroe County now largely limit residential structures to 35 feet.

In August, Florida Keys Community College plans to make a formal name change to College of the Florida Keys when the school’s first four-year degree program debuts.

The college will offer a bachelor’s degree of applied science in supervision and management.

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