Council devoted two hours on Wednesday, March 31, reviewing some of the details of the report that has been worked on since September 2020 by a consulting team headed by staff from FGCU to update the City of Marco Island’s Comprehensive Plan. A 10-year cycle is mandated by state statute to review and update a community’s plan to ensure a community is making necessary plans for future challenges it may face. Those may include such topics as drinking water, wastewater, transportation, recreational needs, coastal management, city services and other items related to needs of a community.
It wasn’t long after the start of the meeting that some councilors would question the process. Councilor Rola asked why they weren’t given a document that showed the present code with appropriate markups to highlight proposed changes so they could evaluate how they would impact the plan if so amended.
Councilor Brechnitz and Blonna also questioned the purpose of the meeting, since they were somewhat confused. Alex Crespo of Waldrop Engineering, a member of the team headed by FGCU, and Dr. Margret Banyan responded that it was not originally in their schedule, but instead, they were attempting to comply with requests for such a meeting.
Some of the issues causing confusion dealt with a glitch in the system that didn’t allow Planning Board comments to be attached to the changes being suggested by the consultants in packets received by councilors.
Councilors agreed that their review of the plan would entail much more review of the components of the Land Development Code (LDC) before they were prepared to make decisions regarding the issues.
Crespo greed that they did not feel a line-by-line review would be possible due to time constraints, but believed they had gotten some good feedback from the Planning Board on a number of issues and credited former Councilor Larry Honig, now Vice-Chair of the Planning Board, for his “excellent wordsmithing” skills, which helped the consultants with their job.
They went on to discuss the reworking of the Future Land Use Amendment to the plan dealing with issues such as “maintaining a small-town feel,” as well as defining the “community character” of the island in stronger terms. Crespo also explained that they have also taken a strong “proactive stance” with regard to development and redevelopment in the future.
Councilor Brechnitz went on to impress on the consultants that he saw the Planning Board’s role in the process as being very important, defining that role as “doing the heavy lifting,” and didn’t want to see that role diminished.
As the conversation continued, the consultants presented a quick overview of several other areas of work done thus far on the plan with regard to transportation, housing, intergovernmental cooperation, and coastal and conservation elements.
Differences of opinion regarding a number of issues bubbled to the surface, with the most glaring being Councilman Blonna’s assessment that we are no longer a “small town community” and, instead, should be looked upon as a “small coastal resort city.”
“Failure to recognize that will otherwise doom planning efforts in the future,” said Blonna.
That brought a quick response from Councilman Brechnitz. “I disagree with that. I think what we are here to do is to reflect what our residents feel. Our residents don’t believe we have moved past the small-town feel,” said Brechnitz. That discussion continued for a short time while council debated definitions.
Council and the Planning Board will continue their reviews and public meetings with a goal of having a preliminary draft by the end of May, and a submission to the State of Florida possibly in June.