One of the most contentious issues facing City of Marco Island staff, contractors and elected officials over the last 20 years has involved how to deal with the construction of seawalls on the island, while balancing delicate quality of life matters.
The manufacturing of seawall panels, and the temporary storage of debris from the removal of the old seawalls, has been a perplexing problem over the years for property owners, contractors, neighbors and city officials.
When the Mackle Brothers first viewed the raw canvas that would become what is known today as modern Marco Island, it did not have a well-defined canal or street grid; they created that infrastructure from dredging and filing and creating over 100 miles of canals to provide future residents with building lots, which allowed for the construction of homes and condominiums, beginning over 50 years ago.
As time has progressed, another set of challenges has arisen; there is a need to provide for the replacement of that aging inventory of seawalls. How does the city protect residential neighborhoods from the unfortunate byproducts of the necessary construction to provide a new seawall to those that are in poor shape?
Due to ever-increasing complaints regarding the noise, smell and disruption of life in residential neighborhoods, city staff has been forced to look seriously at restricting the manufacturing of seawall panels within residential neighborhoods. In addition to the above-named issues, the inventory of available lots is quickly evaporating, and staff has made a presentation to the city’s planning board regarding that issue.
Any change which will involve the restriction of manufacturing of panels in residential neighborhoods will likely add costs to the construction of new replacement seawalls, but a defined estimate of the cost increase has not been finalized by contractors.
Over the years, contractors have alluded to the possibility of having the panels poured elsewhere and then trucked onto the island. The available waterfront parcels which would receive those poured panels and have them loaded onto barges is another issue.
Much has been spoken about these issues, but little forethought or decisions were made over the years, whether it was during the many years under county oversight or the last 20-plus years since cityhood.
Some contractors have already begun to purchase the panels off-island and have them delivered to vacant lots which may be adjacent to the property that the work is being done on, or for loading onto barges and moved to the construction site.
Another alternative may lie in the utilization of fiberglass or composite seawall panels. They may only be utilized if the original cement panels are in fair condition.
Complaints about vendors skirting the rules and causing issues in residential neighborhoods have reached a point wherein city staff is looking to address the issue and end the disruption within those neighborhoods.
The fault may, however, not lie so much with all the vendors, but with a very small segment who choose to abuse the rules and the subsequent lack of stern enforcement of those regulations.
Regardless of where fault lies, the inventory of available lots for manufacturing and loading areas for the precast panels is still a problem which needs to be addressed and a forward-looking plan created before time runs out.