The Marco Island Planning Board saw almost every seat occupied at its recent meeting on Friday, November 2. The room was packed with attorneys, architects and other support staff. A court reporter was present to create a verbatim transcript of the second matter on the agenda; a proposed assisted living facility.
The first item, however, dealt with resolving a long-standing issue concerning the construction of a guest house on a piece of property that had issues due to the size of the lot it was built upon. The issue was discovered after the structure was constructed and after city staff had issued the appropriate building permit. Those staff members are no longer employed by the city. The structure was originally referred to as a “cabana.”
After the construction was completed, it was determined that the building was defined as a “guest house,” requiring a minimum of one-acre lot size.
To resolve the issue, city staff requested that the owner submit for a variance from the code. After receipt of the variance the owner would then apply for a “conditional use permit.” Both those items were included as part of agenda for the November 2 meeting of the board. This would bring the entire matter into compliance with the requirements of the city zoning code and its Comprehensive Plan.
The city would also require that neither the original dwelling nor the accessory structure be sold separately. It would be part of a deed restriction and recorded with the county.
Board Chairman Erik Brechnitz would caution the board not to view this issue through the rearview, but instead through the windshield, looking forward to cleaning up issues rather than dwelling on the past. The board would vote 6-1 to approve the staffs’ recommendations and forward them on to the city council.
Assisted Living Facility
The Planning Board heard a presentation from representatives of the Chancey Design Partnership of Tampa, Florida on the proposed Watermark at Marco Island Assisted Living Facility. That group, represented by Attorney Craig Woodward, had initially tested the waters on Marco concerning a facility back earlier in the summer. This group is unrelated to the project that was proposed on South Barfield Drive and is a separate entity. Woodward made that abundantly clear in his opening remarks to the board.
After seeing there would be numerous obstacles laying in the way of a favorable decision if they were to proceed with the initial plans, the company and its representatives went back to the drawing board and pursued a PUD (Planned Unit Development) which would give them and the city more flexibility.
Hearing complaints regarding potential evacuation issues from a barrier island, should another hurricane approach that would require mandatory evacuation, the company went back and did a survey of other similar facilities located on barrier islands throughout Florida. That survey found dozens of similar facilities on both the east and west coasts of Florida.
Questions arose regarding whether the plans for emergency evacuation had been submitted to Collier County Emergency Management for approval. It was explained that only towards completion of the project is it required to submit those plans, and not during this stage of the process.
The petitioner pointed out that although C-1 zoning does not allow for residential uses as a right, it does allow for the petitioner to seek a conditional use determination if it can show cause.
Several members of the public spoke in favor of the project and of its need. Jack Patterson, a longtime resident, humorously advised that his daughters had suggested he consider either Rochester, New York or Houston, Texas near either of them, which he soundly rejected. “If you had a choice where would you go?” said Patterson.
Those that opposed the plan did so not out of the concept of an ALF, but instead whether it fit into the surrounding residential neighborhoods.
One of those concerns centered on the overall height of the proposed building, 50 feet in elevation, which would require a variance in the maximum height in that area.
Sensing a rising concern by both neighbors and board members, Chairman Erik Brechnitz suggested that the board allow him and his clients to caucus while the next petitioner came forward, which Brechnitz felt would only take 20-25 minutes.
When they returned, Woodward and Walter Chancey the petitioner came back with a revised plan which would limit the elevation to 40 feet, only three stories in height and a total number of rooms at 166, versus the original 206.
Board member Joe Rola was the only holdout on the compromise, which would pass on a 6-1 vote. The next hurdle will involve two hearings in front of the new city council which will take their seats on Tuesday, November 13 due to the Monday, November 12 Veterans Day holiday.
It is unclear when that first public hearing will be held on this issue.
Publix to Undergo Redevelopment
What is commonly referred to as the “Big Publix,” at the corner of San Marco Road and South Barfield Drive passed its first hurdle regarding a complete demolition of their retail operation and replacement of that store with a newly designed and upgraded facility for its shoppers on the island.
This will not affect the operations of the other retail space within the Shops of Marco Shopping Center and all of those stores will remain open for business as normal.
Improvements to the Publix shopping experience is expected to take 8-10 months. In the meantime Marco shoppers will have the opportunity to shop at their operation on North Collier Boulevard at the Town Center Shopping Center as well as other outlets on Marco and just off the island.
It was anticipated that the plans for redevelopment would begin last spring, however some believe that the impact of Hurricane Irma may have caused their plans to be adjusted.
The addition of a drive-through pharmacy will be part of the plans for the new store, along with improved lighting, enhanced storm water control, pedestrian walkways and increased shopping opportunities.
The Site Development Plan passed 7-0.
Marco Island Academy Moves Forward For Permanent Structure
A revised Site Development Plan (SDP) was also approved to allow the public charter high school, Marco Island Academy, to move forward with their plans for fundraising and providing a hard vision for the new school. That revised SDP required a variance petition to be approved by the board to allow for a total of 30 feet in elevation for the school.
To learn more about all aspects of the school and for giving opportunities visit www.marcoislandacademy.org.