Those that love the small village ambiance of the Olde Marco Inn, and especially the quaint specialty shops that abut the area, may be pleased to hear that changes have been put on hold.
Last December, the property owners, the Allard family, had their representative, Robert Mulhere, V.P. of Planning for the Holes-Montes Planning and Development Firm of Naples, conduct an informational meeting for owners of the Olde Marco Island Inn and Suites and the neighbors abutting their property.
They were proposing a major change to that property, which included the addition of a four-story structure over parking for a 41-room hotel wing. That proposal would result in the demolition of the 20,000 feet of rental stores and art galleries in the Old Marco development off Palm Street. In addition to those changes, the Leebee Fish Restaurant and the small breakfast/lunch cafe would be removed to make room for the new hotel/condo wing.
Professional planner Robert Mulhere, on behalf of the Allards, explained that the buildings had been heavily impacted by Hurricane Irma and needed major repairs. He also explained that the project necessitated the need for the redevelopment to make it financially feasible.
Some residents who attended that informational meeting were concerned about traffic, parking and the impact on the neighborhood. Others from Villa De Marco East and West were concerned how the newly proposed hotel/condo wing would impact their quality of life and the historic nature of the area.
When the Olde Marco Inn and Suites were developed in the late ‘90s, adjacent to the historic Olde Marco Inn, those additions came under Collier County’s three-acre PUD (Planned Unit Development) requirement.
After the City of Marco Island was incorporated in 1997, Collier County continued to handle the planning and zoning issues for the fledgling community until it developed its own Land Development Code and created its own planning and growth management structure.
Upon the creation of those internal documents for the island community, several changes were made to the codes previously utilized by the county staff. One of those changes dealt with PUDs on the island and the minimum size of a PUD. The new documents would require a ten-acre tract for consideration of PUD status.
As part of the petitioner’s project, all the auxiliary buildings that have been added over the years to the Olde Marco Inn would be removed. They would be jacking up the original structure and turning it around 180 degrees to facilitate the use of the original entryway which existed when the inn was constructed in 1883. The Inn would then be elevated to meet present day FEMA flood requirements for elevation.
A new pool and deck area would have been constructed, in addition to a new free-standing 75 seat restaurant with an outside dining area and bar. Another elevated bar would be located by the new pool area, which would be built over new parking below.
An entirely new kitchen would have been built on the ground level with a new restaurant that would seat 285 patrons with its own bar. As part of the plan, an additional 2,680 sq. ft. of meeting area would also be provided.
The popular Café De Marco Restaurant would not be impacted by this proposal, as it still has four years remaining on its lease with the property owners.
A review of the developer’s plans had been scheduled for Friday, January 4 before the Marco Island Planning Board and was well attended by the neighborhood. However, at that meeting, Mr. Mulhere requested that the issue be pulled from the agenda, to allow the petitioner time to address some of the many objections voiced by the neighbors. That request caught board members, and the public who had come to the meeting, off-guard.
The board would eventually agree to a rescheduling, but only after a strong rebuke of Mr. Mulhere by the Chair of the Board. Mr. Mulhere had advised his client not to attend that day as he would get a rescheduling of the hearing. “Mr. Mulhere, the board is the only one who may grant extensions; are you and your client ready to proceed?” To which Mulhere would respond he wasn’t.
The board would grant the rescheduling of the hearing which would have been heard on Friday, February 1, however the Planning Staff have removed it from that agenda due to the discovery that it would be a non-conforming PUD.
- Staff believes the present development is considered a non-conforming PUD due to the lack of the 10 acres required under present day codes.
- Staff believes the present PUD does not meet our Comprehensive Plan as written today.
- Staff has issues with density and meeting the Comprehensive Plan.
- There may be issues with “long-term residential” uses within the PUD and may be in violation of the Comprehensive Plan.
It is unclear what options are left for the petitioner at this time. For now, the quaint little shopping and local artist galleries and studios will remain the same until further notice and any additional density will not be added to the existing PUD.
Photos by Steve Stefanides