Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Planning Board Debates Site Plans and Lot Coverages

Plans to convert Sami’s Quick Stop into Sami’s Pizza and Grill passed the Marco Island Planning Board. Photo by Steve Stefanides

Plans to convert Sami’s Quick Stop into Sami’s Pizza and Grill passed the Marco Island Planning Board. Photo by Steve Stefanides

For Samiur “Sami” Rahman, his transition to that of a full-fledged restaurant entrepreneur came one step closer to reality when his plans to convert the old Sami’s Quick Stop into the all new Sami’s Pizza and Grill passed the Marco Island Planning Board. On Friday, December 1st representatives for Rahman received a 7-0 vote in favor of approving his upgraded Site Improvement Plan.

The approval did not come automatically, and faced a number of questions from board members who were aware of ongoing concerns regarding parking issues throughout the island, along with access and egress concerns.

Board member Ron Goldstein questioned the viability of the planned parking in combination with outdoor seating at the rear of the establishment. That seating and parking area was a concern to Goldstein due to the conflict with delivery vehicles that use this area to convey goods to the establishment. Fellow board member David Vergo would go on to explain that most deliveries to establishments such as Rahman’s were done in the morning hours, therefore should not be a problem.

Board member Ed Issler would seek clarification on the height of vegetation planned for the area along Collier Boulevard, seeking to obtain assurances that they would not block visibility of oncoming vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

Richard Adams, another board member would inquire of the city attorney as to the board’s ability to insert personal preferences into the decision making process. “If this application meets all the requirements of the code, do we have any alternative other than approving it?” asked Adams. “If it meets the requirements of the code you must approve it,” said the attorney.

The board would vote 7-0 to approve the plans and send them on to the city council. Pervious Versus Impervious

As a continuation of the board’s discussions regarding the Land Development Code, a wide-ranging discussion was held regarding lot coverage. Those discussions focused on how much of a single family residential lot can be covered with buildings of materials that will not allow a percolation of water into the soil.

The present code allows for up to 67% of a residential single family lot to be covered with impervious materials or buildings. That might include sidewalks, driveways or parking lots, which are constructed from impenetrable materials such as asphalt, concrete, brick, stone, pavers or rooftops. Commercial zoned areas are allowed to cover 95% of a lot.

For board member Ed Issler it was more about the “character” of the community and not the coverage of the lot. “I don’t think we should center this on water only, but here we have an opportunity to bring back the character of our island. There is too much asphalt and concrete,” commented Issler.

The definition of pervious pavers and the engineering of those products also became a major topic of discussion. How to best enforce or insure these products are installed to meet the codes became another matter of contention. “We just don’t have the personnel to enforce these enhanced provisions,” said Daniel Smith, the Director of Growth Management.

Board member Frank Mulligan suggested that the city look more toward the new style “turf-blocks” which allow either gravel or grass in the open space, which would allow for percolation of water. Board member Issler would agree with Mulligan in regards to this style of paver. Board member David Vergo would caution how we dictate a particular product, while board member Joe Rola favored viewing all pavers as impervious, rather than worry about trying to determine the ability of any paver to allow water to pass through.

David Milner cautioned the board that they would be damaging property values should they reduce the buildable area on a residential lot. “You are talking about reducing home and lot values on the island,” said Milner. “This will never pass by council,” continued Milner.

Board Chairman Erik Brechnitz requested that staff bring back their professional recommendations on the subject. “I feel uncomfortable trying to figure this out with my level of expertise, but I also hear what is being said here by board members regarding their desires to see the ambiance of the island maintained and not see it paved over. What I would like to see however, is the staff taking a proactive approach and bring us back some recommendations,” said Brechnitz.

Board member Issler, however, would continue to lobby for a reduction to 55% coverage from structures and impervious materials on lots greater than 11,000 square feet and a reduction to 60% on lots under 11,000 square feet. This would be a reduction from the 67% coverage rule presently found in the Land Development Code.

Members would wait until staff reports back to them at their next regularly scheduled meeting the first Friday in January.

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