The Marco Island Planning Board met in the Council Chambers on October 2nd with a full agenda, which included continued consideration of a proposed ordinance to revamp procedures required to amend the city’s Comprehensive Plan—the document that sets forth general guidelines and principles for growth and development of the city.
Discussions that began with the Board’s September 4th meeting centered on ensuring a structured and orderly process for considering potential amendments to the Plan. The Board adopted the staff-recommended revisions by a vote of 6-0, with Board Member Ron Goldstein absent.
The new ordinance stipulates that if the Director of Community Development or the City Manager feels an application to amend the Comprehensive Plan might attract a large amount of public attention or significantly affect a neighborhood, they may direct the applicant to hold a Neighborhood Information Meeting (“NIM”). Alternatively, before the application’s submission or hearing, the applicant could voluntarily hold a NIM.
During a NIM, questions asked and answered are recorded in writing and by video, and presented to the Director within ten days after the meeting. Although not an official meeting of the city, a NIM would provide an opportunity for an amendment applicant and citizens to discuss concerns, dispelling rumors and misinformation. Director of Community Development Daniel Smith sees the NIM as a way to help eliminate misunderstandings and allow all parties to move a project forward in a more positive manner by airing differences and finding solutions prior to a formal presentation to staff and the Planning Board.
Old Arturo’s Restaurant Site Plan Approved
The new owners of the former Arturo’s Restaurant property at 844 Bald Eagle Drive, which was damaged in 2017 by Hurricane Irma, cleared another hurdle on their way to completing the restoration of that long–vacant property. The Planning Board unanimously approved their redesign of the 2001 landscape plan, including adequate parking, water retention and a pleasing appearance.
The partners of Electric Light Properties LLC and its contractors continue to make progress toward reopening the property as a new restaurant with an outdoor eating area and bar, and a totally redesigned interior lounge.
Questions Arising From 921 Windward Drive Storage Project
What began as a storage facility to be constructed at 921 Windward Drive seemed to have morphed into a more substantial usage, concerning members of the Planning Board as they struggled with some of the explanations provided by the attorney for the applicant.
The addition of “lofts,” now being referred to as “mezzanines,” drove intense questioning regarding whether these units would contain living quarters. Concerns of the Board members were allayed by both verbal and written assurances from the applicant that this was not the intent.
Discussion of Stormwater Management & Residential Construction
At the present time, a licensed civil engineer must provide the city with a certification of stormwater management plans for commercial and industrial development. Whether or not that should become a requirement for a single-family residence became a discussion item on the Planning Board’s meeting agenda last Friday. Jason Tomassetti, City Stormwater Engineer, led a discussion on the genesis of the idea to make it a requirement.
For a number of years, pollution of the island’s canals due to runoff from residential lots has been a debate heard at various levels. Recently, the city has worked on recrafting its fertilizer ordinance to deal with the issue. Continuing areas of concern, however, include the increase in the size of homes being built on the island and the available permeable surfaces for absorbing groundwater to prevent runoff into canals.
Jason Bailey, both a Planning Board Member and local contractor, questioned why the cost for this engineering should be added to the total coast of a home, and why a contractor could not just layout calculations based on lot size and footprint of the structure. Tomassetti responded that the engineer’s job would be to confirm and certify that the builder/contractor had designed and completed that design correctly to protect the homeowner.
“We have 9000 lots that are already built upon and we are worrying about the last 1300 home sites. The other 9000 are going to keep doing it and we worry about the 1300,” said Bailey before continuing. “Generally speaking, our swales are a mess. We won’t even commit the monies to fix them. Now we want to say the last 1300 lots are going to solve the world’s water problems,” concluded a frustrated Jason Bailey.
Board member Joe Rola suggested that the city start with the restoration of swales and see where the city goes from there.
“Until we fix the swale system, this conversation is useless,” remarked Ed Issler.
“Two and a half years ago, I sat here like others and had this proposed to us, and we rejected it for the same reasons. No one took heed of our message, nothing has been done and that is why we are frustrated with this,” said David Vergo.
“We need a broader, holistic look at this,” said Chairperson Claire Babrowski as she accepted a motion to adjourn, signaling an end to the discussion.