Voters decide to turn Key West into small-ship cruise destination

KEY WEST, Fla. – Key West voters decided to set limits on big cruise ship tourism, and this will turn the Conch Republic. into a small-ship cruise destination.

Three new amendments to the city charter aim to limit the number of people disembarking from cruise ships to 1,500 a day and limit the capacity of ships to 1,300 people. Officials will also have to consider the ships' health and environmental safety records for docking priority.

Before the amendments ended up on the Election Day ballot, opponents challenged the measure in federal and state courts, so it is likely that they will challenge the voters' decision in court even though the amendments are legally binding.

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The Committee for Safer, Cleaner Ships took the helm of the effort on a mission to protect the quaint character of the city and the local ecosystem. Arlo Haskell, the group’s treasurer, said the community worked together.

“There is a lot of unity and a lot of support behind this very common-sense restrictions,” Haskell said.

Protect Our Jobs, an organization registered as a nonprofit, and the Key West Chamber of Commerce unsuccessfully opposed the effort alleging the limits will increase unemployment and hurt local businesses.

Bill Lay, the owner of La Trattoria Restaurant, said he is worried that the measure comes as he is already suffering during the ongoing coronavirus recession.

“This is a very big deal to our little community,” Lay said.

About the Authors:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.