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Buyers: Vacant Land

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Monroe County, including the Florida Keys and the lower Florida Everglades,
is one of the most unique places in the world. Many people want to live here, but the environment and ecosystems are delicate and cannot withstand over-population.

Building new residences and commercial structures in Monroe County can be a complicated and frustrating process. Although complex, it is still possible to build your dream home or develop a commercial venture. With the right guidance, the local process is certainly navigable. Our team of REALTORS® have guided many of our customers throughout the permitting and building process.

What is “ROGO”

Monroe County created and implemented ROGO (Rate-of-Growth Ordinance) in 1992. ROGO is meant to control growth in a manner that is beneficial to the local environment as well as to the residents. ROGO controls growth throughout Monroe County to insure that the proper evacuation times are maintained. Click here for Monroe County’s “Layman’s Guide To Residential ROGO”.

The History of ROGO

To understand ROGO, you must first consider the population growth in the Keys. In 1975, the state of Florida designated the Florida Keys as an “Area of Critical State Concern”. The Keys received this designation due to environmental sensitivity of the area and the extraordinary development pressures looming on its horizon. Due to the importance of the designation, Monroe County began a comprehensive planning process that resulted in what is known as the Rate-of-Growth Ordinance or commonly referred to as ROGO.

In 2000, problems with ROGO became apparent. ROGO was indeed slowing growth as intended but not controlling it effectively. Also the system was very complicated and difficult to understand. The Growth Management Division undertook the challenge of revamping the system to build a more simplistic approach toward slowing and controlling development.

On March 21, 2006 the Tier System was adopted which greatly simplified the ROGO system and built in a method of directing growth to acceptable areas and allowing conservation in areas with environmental sensitivity.

A series of maps and Tier Overlays are available on the Monroe County’s website. We highly recommend that you research your area of interest prior to making any buying decisions.

ROGO is a Competition?

The process of receiving a building permit in Monroe County is a competitive process. ROGO establishes the rules and procedures for that competition.

This competition is a point based system that allows everyone applying for a new residential or commercial building permit to compete against each other for the limited number of allocations issued each year. The number of allocations available is determined through the adoption of an administrative rule on the state level. The number of allocations is based on the progress that Monroe County has made toward achieving state set goals such as a central wastewater system being available keys wide.
The total number of available allocations is split among the three sub-areas of Monroe County. The Upper Keys, Lower Keys and the Big Pine and No Name Key planning area. Each applicant competes against the other applicants located within the same sub-area. There is one exception to this process, applicants for affordable housing. Affordable housing applicants compete against all applicants for affordable housing permits keys wide. Allocations are awarded each quarter in each sub-area with the exception of Big Pine Key and No Name Key where allocations are awarded annually.

The ROGO Process

You will need to apply to ROGO in any of the three Building Department Offices, Marathon, Plantation Key, and Stock Island. Receiving a ROGO allocation is only one of three steps toward receiving a building permit in Monroe County.


Cesspit credit
After the application is submitted, it is scored based on which Tier the property is located in.
The primary basis of the competition is the Tier designation which will award your application between 0 and 30 points. Additional points are available through the aggregation, land dedication and fund donation processes. A penalty is assigned if the project is within a V flood zone.

This the process of combining a contiguous, platted, vacant, and buildable parcel with another and building only one unit. This is a reduction of density which Monroe County will award a total of 4 points per aggregated lot to the application. Aggregation is only possible in Tier 3 and Tier 3(A) areas, where upland native habitat is not cleared.

Land Dedication
This the donation of approved property to Monroe County in exchange for points toward an application on another parcel. Each platted, vacant, and buildable parcel of at least 5,000 square feet located in a Tier 1 area and zoned NA or SS will be eligible for .5points toward an application. 1 point will be awarded for each platted, buildable, and vacant lot of at least 5,000 square feet located within Tier 1 and zoned SR or SR-L. 4 Points will be awarded for each vacant, platted and buildable lot zoned SC, IS, IS-D, URM, URM-L or CFV or any CFSD which allows dwelling units. 4 points will be awarded for each 1-acre of buildable, unplanted and vacant land located in Tier 1.

Fund Donation
This the process of purchasing points (maximum of 2) by donating to the county fund which allows for the retirement of development rights through the acquisition of property. This donation must be made prior to issuance of the permit.

It may take several years to receive an allocation for your permit based on your score. You may at any time decide to withdraw from ROGO and add points as described above to accelerate this process. After your permit receives an allocation the application will be added to the cesspit credit list. Due to poor offshore water quality Monroe County is required to maintain a ratio of new septic systems to old cesspits of 1:1. As cesspit is removed a new septic may be installed. After a cesspit credit is awarded your permit is ready to be issued. Note: as of this time 1-2008 cesspit credit are not being required with the permitting process.

ROGO on Big Pine & No Name Key

Big Pine Key and No Name Key have several federally protected species. Because of this, Monroe County created a specific comprehensive plan for these two keys, which have similar requirements but specific rules and policies in submitting and receiving building permits on these 2 islands. The tier system classifies land based on its environmental impact/importance to native/endangered species, and assigns a point value to each type of land. There are 3 tiers, or classifications for land; Tier I is extremely sensitive land, difficult to develop and receives no ROGO points, Tier II is a little easier to build on and receives 10 ROGO points, Tier III is generally not environmentally sensitive land and, after Monroe County review, is buildable with 20 ROGO points.

For Big Pine Key and No Name Key, each quarter three properties are awarded a ROGO building allocation; two market rate allocations and one affordable housing allocation. This may change from time to time.
The period of time a specific property spends in ROGO review depends on how many properties are already on the list to be reviewed. Properties can move up the list/accumulate ROGO points by making “lot dedications”, purchasing buildable property and donating it to Monroe County.

Harvest Value on Big Pine & No Name Key

Another aspect of ROGO affecting development on Big Pine Key and No Name Key is called H-value, or harvest value. The federal government issued an “incidental take” permit to Monroe County allowing development (or taking) of environmentally sensitive lands. Until recently, Monroe County was pulling from a pool of land to cover the h-value for each building permit application received. This pool of land has been exhausted, so it has become the responsibility of property owner’s to cover the h-value of their properties.

Every piece of land is assigned a number, or harvest value based on its environmental impact/importance to native/endangered species and traffic flow/impact. In order to complete the ROGO review process, property owners are required to make a lot dedication 3x the harvest value of their lot. H-value land dedications do not have to be buildable land, they can be Tier I, II or III, swamp land, non-buildable out in the middle of nowhere with no roads or access.

This H-value lot dedication is a recent development and has only recently been presented to the public and to REALTORS, so the market price for h-value lots has yet to be determined.

More Information on ROGO Related Issues

ROGO continues to be a vital yet complicated process. If you are interested in purchasing vacant land, we highly recommend you have a full understanding of all the issues that surround ROGO. We recommend the following links to further your understanding of ROGO and the related issues.

Monroe County ROGO System

Monroe County Tier System

Monroe County Code Compliance

Monroe County General Building Permit Information

We would like to guide you through the process and are happy to share our years of experience with you. Please contact us for any further questions.

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