Thursday, October 1, 2020

Guest Commentary

On April 27, 2010, I was informed that the position of Community Development Director would be eliminated from the City’s organizational structure. My thoughts immediately turned to the large volume of existing and pending planning projects that the Community Development Department is currently charged with. As I have been working over the course of the last several days during the transition of City Managers, organizing project files, making final work assignments, and preparing an exit report for the interim manager’s consideration, I have been reminded of the number of significant accomplishments of the employees of this department over the past few years and the importance of several critical planning issues that continue to approach.

Marco Island is very fortunate to have been well-planned by the Mackle Brothers in the early 1960s. Given the sound planning foundation established in the initial years, the current economic down-turn, and the fact that the Island is nearly built out with approximately 2,000 vacant lots left for development, one might question the need for a Community Development Department consisting of a staff of 16 employees in 3 divisions and an operating budget of $2.1 million.

There is a tradition of planning excellence in the City of Marco Island and the unique characteristics of the community will continue to demand high levels of professional and dedicated expertise. The evaluation and appraisal of the City’s Comprehensive Plan;  subsequent amendments to the plan; approval of nearly $325,000 in Community Development Block Grants for the construction of sidewalks, landscaping and street lights for the improvement of Marco Highlands; transformation of the City’s building permitting system; continuous improvement of the City’s Community Rating System and related reductions in flood insurance premiums; initial work in the planning and improvement of the Town Center District; enhancement of the City’s Geographic Information System; continuous improvement of the review and coordination of special events occurring within the City; development and improvement of several ordinances within the City’s Land Development Code; stalwart preservation of the City’s precious environmental assets; and professional development of staff resources within the Department are a few of the issues and projects that I am proud to have been associated with.

Rumor suggests that there will be more cuts and reorganization within the Administration.  Having worked diligently to reduce costs and staffing levels in previous budgets, we are now at a point where additional cuts can not be made without a concomitant reduction in programs and services. The organization of the department and other departments of the City is structured to be as efficient and effective as possible utilizing a minimum of the community’s financial resources. A demanding environment under the best of circumstances, working under the direction of 5 city managers in the past 3 years has only added to the challenges of the Department.

The City is blessed to have a staff of community development professionals that is talented, creative, and well-qualified.  All are experts in their field and all are dedicated to successful accomplishment of their tasks and responsibilities. The City’s building inspectors are licensed by the State Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the code enforcement officers are certified by the Florida Association of Code Enforcement, the flood plain manager is certified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Department Director is certified by the American Institute of Certified Planners. Many have degrees in their field, some have advanced degrees, and all staff are encouraged or required to stay current in their disciplines through completion of continuing education credits. As change undoubtedly will continue to occur, I would encourage the City to see its valuable staff assets as an effective resource in the development and implementation of current and future projects.

It has been an honor to serve the City as its Community Development Director. I hope to have been a positive contributor to the many initiatives considered by the Planning Board and City Council over the years.  Department employees have always strived to provide Council and residents with a thorough evaluation of the various issues, based on objective research and sound planning principals. I wish to thank City Council, the staff and administration, and the citizens of the Community for their support and guidance. Thank you for the tremendous opportunities and thank you for your support.

Steve Olmsted, City of Marco Island, May 5, 2010

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