Tuesday, October 19, 2021

2020 To Be An Interesting Year

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As Marco Islanders begin to look into their crystal balls sitting before them to determine what the future might hold for their community, they should be attempting to view the challenges that lay before the community, the staff, and their representatives.

The challenges themselves will be significant, as well as some of the debates, and will require a considerable amount of reflection and thought, especially given the fact that this is an election year. 

New City Manager Michael McNees assumes a position which has been vacant for two and a half years, suffering an embarrassing three-month tenure by a former manager who left in disgrace and would have his credentials voided by the International City Managers Association. McNees’ arrival couldn’t have come soon enough, for the very fabric of the organization within city hall was about to be torn apart.

Our new Police Chief Tracy Frazzano will find the challenges for her to be quite significant due to problems that span at least three different administrations of former chiefs and a vacant CEO position for almost two and a half years. 

The vacancies of seven officers, the departure of a records clerk under a cloud, the firings of two supervisory staff members for dereliction of duty and actions unbecoming of an officer, in addition to the belief by many of the staff that a “cancer” still infects their department, is a high bar for her to hurtle. However, by all indications, she comes to the community more than capable of handling those challenges and she needs to be given the opportunity to revitalize the department and restore morale.

Planning Issues

Several planning issues may shortly be before city staff, the Planning Board and eventually the council as at least two highly contentious issues are about to resurface.

Alf Proposal May Be Coming Back

One of those items that may be a re-introduction involves a plan for the reuse of the Sanitasole property on South Barfield Drive. The building which had previously housed the Sanitasole Adult Day Care and Memory Care facility has sat vacant for close to 4 years and has been the focus of much speculation since a failed attempt to have it turned into an upscale substance abuse facility in 2017.

The original facility was owned and run by Richard and Paula Robinson (Camposano) and the property was held under the name of Triad Real Estate Investors until late 2016 when that corporate entity was administratively dissolved for failure to file their 2016 Annual Report with the State of Florida. The last such report was filed on January 20, 2015, and they are no longer the owners of the property.

An attempt to have an upscale substance abuse facility would fail in 2017 after neighbors complained to both the Planning Board and City Council. 

Another development was proposed on that land, but it also ran into opposition. The total number of units being proposed was 81 units, with 40 of those set aside for “memory care.” That number well exceeds the 26 units allowed under the code per acre. That developer had been turned down by the planning board and the proposal was brought before the council.

The developer was represented by Robert Mulhere, by Hole Montes, the planning professionals from Naples, Florida. The city staff and the Planning Board rejected their request due to density, health and safety issues. They did not find it compatible with the city’s LDC, although they were sympathetic to the conceptual nature of an ALF. 

Staff was especially concerned regarding having a facility constructed on a “barrier island,” and the challenges that would present not only to residents of such a facility but the strain it would put on the community’s First Responders should a major storm event occur. 

Second Alf Proposal May Be Back in Play

A second ALF offering may also be coming back before city planners, as the one-year anniversary period is about to expire before that developer can bring back the proposal rejected by the council early in 2019.

The debate regarding the creation of a Planned Unit Development (PUD) to allow a modified Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) on a portion of an 11.4-acre tract of land presently owned by Naples Community Hospital could therefore be coming back after the expiration of the one-year period required by the city ordinance. 

The plans by the petitioner would see five acres sold to the Chancey Design Partnership, along with their partners CW Development and Watermark Communities to build a “modified CCRC” on that property. That five-acre parcel would be combined with the remaining 6.4 acres to create the PUD which would be joined the remaining NCH property at the intersection of Bald Eagle Drive and San Marco Road.

That proposal stirred considerable debate as abutting neighbors and residents on the island questioned the proposed location due to safety, traffic, noise and density/intensity issues. City staff would recommend rejection of the project due to its non-conformity to the city’s Land Development Code and Comprehensive Plan.

Comprehensive Plan Review

The city is also about to engage in a comprehensive review of the city’s comprehensive plan.

The Comprehensive Plan for the city is now over 10 years old and the Planning Board was advised at its December meeting that staff is moving forward to request a Request for Qualifications from firms who might assist staff and the various advisory boards as how to move forward to fabricate such an updated document.

Simply put, a Comprehensive Plan guides a community in how to guide growth within a community and lays down principals by which that growth will be permitted. That plan would be developed by the residents and businesses within a community.

Some worry that undue influence on that process by developers might unduly influence the character and vision for the island.

Already rumors are swirling regarding the review process of “Site Plan Amendments,” which could be driven by outside forces rather than a review by the Planning Board and/or City Council.

2020 may see some interesting debates and changes of the Marco Island landscape and how we control our own destiny.

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