At the Marco Island Planning Board meeting on January 7, 2022, the only matter for discussion was whether to allow the use of a new style of boat covering for docks at island residences.
This issue was raised by a resident at the December 2021 Marco Island City Council meeting. At that time, council listened to the resident’s request and forwarded it to the Planning Board for review. When the item came before the board at its January 7 meeting, the planning staff included suggested language adjustments to clean up the existing code.
The result was a two-hour discussion of definitions regarding “mooring” covers versus “boat” covers, and how it relates to the requests by a number of residents under the current ordinance.
The present verbiage in the City of Marco Island’s Code of Ordinances is as follows:
Sec. 54-116 Boathouses.The city shall not permit the construction of new boathouses, boat covers, gazebos or similar covered structures extending over navigable waterways in any zoning district. The city may approve through the conditional use process, where authorized, nautical garages with cut-in boat slips.
Boats are a huge investment for Southwest Floridians, who face the additional challenges of maintenance and sun protection. Prior to incorporation, boat houses could be found scattered throughout the island. However, after April of 2000, they were prohibited.
The city made provisions for rebuilding boat houses that were legally permitted prior to incorporation. In 2018, the city began issuing permits for “nautical garages,” which require a cut-in on the seawall to allow boat storage under the home.
A few years ago, Ed Skrzynski of Marco Canvas and Upholstery developed a product known as the Liberty Cover System, which serves as an assist mechanism for the deployment of a vessel’s mooring cover. When not in use, it is stored off of the boat, but on the structure of the system that is attached to the dock. It awaits deployment of the cover by the owner when needed. Until now, this has been the only allowable change to the restrictive code, which was passed in 2000.
At its December 2021 City Council Meeting, the subject of revisions to the existing Code of Ordinances was entertained after council heard a request by resident Bill Palladino. Palladino asked council to consider a change to the ordinances to allow the addition of a covering design that has already been approved in Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties, the City of Punta Gorda, and throughout the State of Florida.
Palladino had been cited by Code Enforcement after a neighbor complained about the shade canopy installed on his boat dock. That product did not require electrical wiring, simply acting as a shade cover for boats. The cover provides the boat protection from the sun’s UV rays, as well as providing shade to the resident while cleaning their boat.
“My wife and I had simply traveled through many of the canals here on the island, as well as Isles of Capri, Goodland and even down in Everglades City. They are also found throughout Collier, Lee and Charlotte County to name a few. I made this choice after looking around and seeing the numerous styles and in consideration of the aesthetics of the installation. So I buy this, have my boys come down and we put it up, and it’s not rocket science. The structure is rated to 175 mph. The manufacturer says to remove the fabric cover in case of winds in excess of 70 mph,” said Palladino after he testified before the Planning Board.
Numerous other boaters from the island came forward to support making this an available option to help protect their investments. “We are just trying to get another option of choices available to us,” said Barb Evans, a resident and avid boater and fishing enthusiast. “Let people make their choice of what they want,” said Mark Ryland, another Marco Island boater.
In the end, the Planning Board discounted some of the city staff’s reasons to reject Palladino’s request. The board recommended that city staff work to put together a reasonable amendment to the code to allow the canopy cover, reflecting the board’s recommendation to city council in its unanimous 6-0 vote. Board member Geoff Fahringerwas absent from the meeting.