Thursday, January 21, 2021

Planning Board Meeting Recap

By Julia Barnett 

The City Planning Board met the morning of Friday, June 15th, to discuss two separate issues. One matter was put off for further discussion, and the other received the Planning Board’s recommendation for approval and submission to the city council.

The first topic reintroduced during the meeting was a proposed “city-wide comprehensive parking plan.” This “plan” is currently a policy document recommending parking management in swales at both the south and north ends of the Island. The two priority areas, where the city is considering prohibiting swale “on grass” parking are the south end, specifically Swallow Avenue and the surrounding area; and within the Old Marco “Overlay” district. To deal with “on grass” parking, the discussions included initiating routine parking enforcement, placing “no parking” signs as needed, coordinating with CAT (Collier Area Transport) to improve pick-up and drop-off locations and potential routes, and possibly implementing an Island shuttle and on-street parking.

Public comments indicated that the Old Marco area businesses emphatically do not want city interference for their parking. The Old Marco business area in question is quite small, incorporating one condominium development and one or possibly two restaurants.

The planning board decided to continue the discussion to the next meeting on July 6th. The other topic was a business proposal—horse drawn carriage rides. The proposal was presented by Ellen McKinney, the owner and president of, and Michael Riddle, vice-president of Marco Horse Drawn Carriages, Inc. The goal is to bring a “new, one of a kind business to Marco,” for all ages, and to promote the local economy. The service would be available by appointment, for parades and holidays, weddings, anniversaries, proms, engagements and other special occasions. The proposed hours were tailored to accommodate traffic, and season. If they did not have bookings, they would not come to the Island that day.

They presented a proposed route, as well as the two options they were requesting to use as necessary staging areas—one at Park Ave., with a secondary along Bald Eagle, near Rose Marina. At these staging areas, there would be no structure, just a truck, trailer and tacking equipment. This trailer is enclosed, and equipped for safety. It can hold only two horses, so only two would be on the Island at one time. Likewise, there would be only two carriages, a “Cinderella,” and a “Vis-à-vis.” These carriages follow compliance codes. The horses are draft crossbreeds, traffic tested to be safe and sound. Their names? “Thunder” and “Lightning!”

Ms. McKinney and Mr. Riddle assured the planning board that safety and cleanliness was their top priority, and that they would be purchasing liability insurance. Passengers would be picked up and deposited on non-traffic sides, and the carriages would fall under the vehicle code with the addition of safety diamond markings. There would be brakes, brake lights, and steps for customers, as well as light around the rear of the carriage to ensure visibility, even at night. They would remain in the right lane in four lane roads. During heavier traffic, if it builds behind them, the carriage would pull over and let the cars pass them.

The public’s biggest concerns, it seemed, were the smells and the…less enticing aspects of live animals roaming the streets. To this, Michael and Ellen have explained their solutions. Draft-sized excrement bags will be attached to the horse’s harness equipment, and should anything be missed, the attendant on hand would be equipped with proper tools, such as shovels! The carriage would also be equipped with an air-tight container to hold any droppings that mysteriously eluded the bag. They explained that they would clean up after themselves with the safest and most eco-friendly manner.

The planning board unanimously favored the business, with amendments. They do not want Bald Eagle as a backup, due to arguments made by condo-owners around that area. They also altered the proposed hours. The vote was unanimous, and the recommendation will be submitted to the City Council for decision.

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