The Marco Island City Council Meeting last Monday evening appeared to be proceeding as expected. The second and final reading of the 2020-2021 Budget sailed through and received a unanimous vote of approval by the seven-member board, just after receiving the good news that the city’s insurance liabilities would come in close to $500,000 below original estimates.
That news may provide for some added relief to homeowners on the island, as those savings may allow the city to assume responsibility for sidewalk maintenance for the next year. Considerable pressure had been being brought to bear during the budget cycle to have the city assume that responsibility. Nearly 35% of the city sidewalks are cared for by the municipality because they were installed as part of the city’s successes installing “shared–use pathways” due to grant funding. Those segments done required the city to assume the maintenance responsibilities.
In the past, homeowners were responsible at their expense to install sidewalks when building a new home, while also being burdened by the perpetual maintenance. During the controversial STRP program, many areas within the community had the city’s contractor slice through those sidewalks to install lateral connections to the main sewer line in the middle of those streets. Due to failures concerning that work, the homeowner became responsible for the repairs, causing further angst due to costs associated with those repairs.
The silver lining to the savings in the insurance costs may now allow the Council, for at least this next year, to assume those costs should they vote to do so.
Banning Sales of Recreational Marijuana Ordinance
An amended ordinance banning the sales of recreational Marijuana and its associated items sailed through on its initial vote. The amended ordinance cleaned up some language issues regarding the original wording. A citizen referendum calling for the ban would more than handily pass during the state’s primary election.
This ordinance would not affect a possible state-wide referendum to legalize recreational marijuana, which could eventually be brought to the ballot in 2022. The city’s referendum would merely ban the establishment of any retail outlets on the island.
Medical Marijuana, which is legal in the State of Florida, found support in the Council which allowed for its distribution sites here on Marco 2 years ago, after being banned in Naples and Collier County.
Southwest Florida Regional Resiliency Compact
After some debate and reluctance by some, the Marco Council gave tacit approval to the Memorandum of Understanding with the SW Florida Regional Resiliency Compact. Council Chair Erik Brechnitz was one of those that did agree but cautioned that future support would be dependent upon more specificity within the agreement. The Council approved by a 6-1 vote with Councilman Rios casting the dissenting vote.
Homeowners Voice Displeasure Over Rental Issues
Residents showed up in force to voice their concerns regarding the continued degrading of the quality of life in single–family home neighborhoods. This was due to what they feel are out of control short term rentals.
The rancor regarding the attack on their quality of life was on display during the Monday evening council session. If anyone thought the concerns of citizens would go away because city staff had established a “taskforce,” that lacked any representation on it by those affected, would be shortly taken to task by speaker after speaker at the evening meeting.
In referring to the councilors’ email boxes exploding, Council Chair Erik Brechnitz explained that the Council understood what a “flashpoint” the issue had become. The first speaker, Linda Gosley, put it into perspective for the Council Chairman. “This is more than a ‘flash issue,’ this is destroying our lives,” said an emotional Gosley. “If you care about this and us, why aren’t you involving the stakeholders?”
David Romano spoke to his experience since purchasing his home in April of 2019. He testified that his family had only been able to spend one weekend utilizing his back yard. “You tell me how I can purchase a home on Marco Island, and I can’t enjoy my home because the house next door is rented out every day with from 15-25 people. How can I even sit in my backyard and talk to my wife? This is a big issue. We are on the verge of selling. This is insane.”
He would also go on to question the health and safety issues. “We have 11 inflatable mattresses in that front yard. This is more than a noise issue, and it has to be dealt with,” concluded Romano.
Maria Lamb came forward with similar complaints. “I had only four hours sleep this last weekend. It is not a healthy situation,” said Lamb. Since June of 2020, I’ve called in five complaints and I’ve yet to see one on the magistrate’s docket. The fourth call was Labor Day and the fifth call was this last Saturday. I’d like to know if I’m wasting my time calling,” said Lamb.
She went on to testify that the renters retaliated, and her elderly neighbor is afraid to call. “Maria, they make a living hell for me during the day,” she recounted.
Although several speakers asked to slow the process down and involve citizens, the Council stayed focused on the noise issue and moved onto a second reading of the amended ordinance at the next meeting of the Marco City Council on October 5th.