As a former Council member and President of the San Marco Residences Association, the commercial/residential building that abuts the Marriott parking lot on the South, I want to express both my personal support, and the support of our Association, for this project. This is my first public comment on any issue since I left office in November 2012.
I have quietly observed the multitude of issues that have confronted Council, from a distance. It seems as though the present council acts as it should: attempting to be objective, unbiased, cooperative, thoughtful and deliberative, almost to a fault, and not allowing itself to be swayed on any issue because of a vocal minority dissent from the audience.
I have, until now, refrained from adding my views or perspectives on any issue confronting the new council. But the proposed Marriott project has generated a great deal of interest and input, including some who suggest dire consequences should the project be approved. But is the decision really so difficult? This is NOT another sewer debate. We made that decision, it’s done, we have a better Island infrastructure, and the past hostilities and debate between citizens on that issue are over. We are a no longer a tense, split community, nor should we be.
Surprisingly, the Marriott project appears to have generated the same level of debate, largely because a negative, vociferous number of people want to maintain control of the speaker’s podium, or an Island group wants to be recognized as a political force by presenting psychometrically invalid polls, that also include non taxpayers. Taken together, this might give the APPEARANCE that the ‘citizens’ of Marco are opposed. In reality, in the quiet of their homes, condos, or northern retreats during the summer, or just working to make a living, I am convinced that the vast majority of the Island supports the Marriott, but as in the ‘sewer’ debates of 2007/2008, the vocal minority comprise the loudest contingency against it. And, what average citizen wants to challenge a loud, often impolite and emotional, group on any issue?
Lets be honest with ourselves. The Marriott disturbs no one’s life or existence. It enhances them. It’s just beautiful to look at; we see happy adults and children who are guests walking to our various businesses, and simply enjoying themselves. We have friends employed there who love their employer. Whenever I travel across these United States, a conversation inevitably leads to the “Marco Marriott,’ and their past, pleasant experiences on Marco while at the Marriott. And everyone I meet expresses envy that I can say I live on Marco Island. Indeed, most of the initial favorable impressions about Marco are generated by the Marriott or the Hilton. A large segment of our condos and homes were built because at some point in time visitors wanted to insure that they had a ‘piece of paradise,’ just as many of our vacant lots are purchased by future residents.
I visited Marco for the first time to see my father during Christmas, 1996. Both of my parents were employed by the Marriott at that time. My father (in his 70’s at the time) worked in the gift shop, and my step mother was a waitress at the former breakfast cafe. They loved their existence, and the aura was always positive. My impressions of Marco were buttressed by the “Marriott experiences” of my parents. We moved here 8 months later, just in time to vote for City hood.
I look at this Marriott project with excitement and anticipation. An even more beautiful, upscale, JWMarriott will be there for me to enjoy, if even only at an occasional lunch or dinner at Quinn’s orKurrents. And I anticipate encountering even more conversation as my travels continue to take me around the country. Marco Island, that beautiful place with a gorgeous “JW” on one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. The results also include jobs, tax income to the City, ongoing positive attitudes about our Island, a great community asset, an increase in our land values, and the pride we all feel when someone who isn’t fortunate enough to live on Marco expresses their delight in our ability to do so because they have stayed ‘at the Marriott.’
As I recall, during the election in 2012, the Marriott’s intentions to upgrade and upscale their property were smiled upon by all Council candidates. So the public knew what they were voting for. I just don’t understand why we, as Marco Islanders, sometimes seem to take issue with virtually ANY change on the Island, regardless of its obvious objectives or benefits. Of course, there are many retired people from the north who just want attention, any way they can get it. But the majority of Marco Islanders want what is sensible, an enhancement to our Island, and the ability to share our Island and allow more people to experience what we already know: Marco Island is an idyllic place to be, to live life as a resident, tourist, or conventioneer. But these voices, like mine, are unable to attend every meeting, write letters to the Editor, much less make time to go the podium at a Council meeting.
We have an opportunity to support an enterprise that has benefited our Island for many years, in many ways. We could not be so foolish as to reject this opportunity, in order to satisfy a segment of the population that has too much time to develop negative hypotheses and predictions.
Let’s celebrate the Marriott’s trust, previous long history of being a perfect and considerate neighbor, and its love of Marco. When we wake up after it’s completely done, we will see why there should have been such little debate on the issue!
And we will all be proud.
Council decisions are never easy, especially when confronted by a disgruntled, angry group of folks who want their voices heard. But Council decisions reflect the result of careful analysis and what they believe to be for the benefit of our community as a whole. When any vote is taken, some are happy, and some are angry. But give Council the benefit of its own analysis and decision making and attempt to refrain from personal attacks or threats to ‘run them out.’ Their pay is minimal, the time they expend is enormous, there is no ‘self gain,’ and, they live here too!
Frank R. Recker