Saturday, January 29, 2022

ALF Debate, Opposition Continues

The saga continues as to whether property owned by the Naples Community Hospital (NCH) may be rezoned, allowing for the creation of a Planned Unit Development to permit building an Assisted Living Facility (ALF) on the property, which is presently zoned C1 under Marco zoning.

NCH Healthcare System is found in numerous locations in Collier County and provides a wide range of healthcare services to residents and visitors throughout the county.

They are presently entertaining an offer from the Chancey Design Partnership, along with CRW Development Partners and Watermark Communities. Watermark currently manages 52 such communities in 21 states, including independent living, assisted living, and memory care facilities.

The Council chambers were, however, packed on Friday, December 7 with residents from the neighborhoods surrounding the properties, and they were vocal in their opposition and with their concerns.

City of Marco Island staff continues to insist on a denial of this application as presently written. It also has recommended the process requiring a Comprehensive Plan Amendment. Staff continues to be concerned regarding what they believe are too many unknowns, pointing out that 50% of the proposal is speculative in nature and lacks specificity.

Another issue concerning city staff and Planning Board members lies with the fact that the petitioner is proposing 17.25 units per acre of residential density. The present Future Land Use Table of the Comprehensive Plan only allows 12 units per acre.

Submitted | Rendition of proposed ALF on Marco Island.

Early in the debate at the December 7 Planning Board meeting, it was board member Joe Rola who suggested that they review the staff’s recommendations as presented to them. However, fellow board member Ed Issler stated that they had already voted 6-1 in favor of the petition, which caused Rola to respond, “You voted on something that you didn’t know what it was; the information on the PUD Ordinance wasn’t available,” said Rola.

Board member Frank Mulligan commented, “We are back here because the neighbors were never given proper notice,” said Mulligan.

The Council chambers were, however, packed on Friday, December 7 with residents from the neighborhoods surrounding the properties, and they were vocal in their opposition and with their concerns.

“A comprehensive plan amendment would be required for this to go through,” said Daniel Smith, Marco Island’s Growth Management Director. “The PUD being proposed would allow density not presently allowed,” continued Smith.

Board members Ed Issler and Dave Vergo attempted to paint a picture of what could be built on that property should this proposal fail. However, it would be Rola and Smith that would correct that assumption by pointing out that no residential density is allowed in the C-1 Zoning District.

The petitioner has agreed to reduce the number of units from 206 to 166, with a total number of beds to not exceed 210. They had also agreed to not exceed 40 feet in height from the original 50 feet, which would have allowed a total of four floors, now reduced to three floors.

Chancey attempted to address neighbors’ concerns by speaking about the buffers between properties and increases in landscaping.

Dolores Hones from the Villas of Waterside felt they were left out of the process that the outreach to them was too little and too late. She was also concerned about the impact on traffic, which she said is already severe during season.

Victor Rinke was also concerned regarding the placement of a facility such as this on a barrier island and all its uncertainty, and suggested it belonged further up 951 toward Physicians Regional. “These folks deserve to be closer to medical facilities and not further away,” said Rinke.

Teri Summerfield would point out that less than 1% of the ALFs in Florida that are licensed are of the 210-bed capacity. “The average size of a facility on a barrier island is 41 beds, the largest is 91 beds; to put this on Marco would be a travesty,” said Summerfield.

Jack Patterson saw the need for individuals, such as himself, to “age in place,” and supported the proposal.

There were over 30 individuals that would speak on the matter before the board, and very few were in favor.

By the time the board was ready for motions it was Ed Issler who would move to approve the petitioner’s application. That vote would fail on a 3-3 vote. Members Joe Rola, Ron Goldstein and Dave Vergo would object and Ed Issler, Dick Adams and Frank Mulligan would vote to approve. On a tie vote a motion fails.

A second attempt would be made where Board Member Vergo would place a caveat on the same motion that no substance abuse treatment of psychiatric care would be allowed as part of the allowed uses. That vote would pass 4-2, with Vergo being the seeing vote.

Council Would Defer Debate

On Monday, December 10, Marco Island City Council Chairman Erik Brechnitz suggested, due to the lengthy six-hour meeting held by the Planning Board and its subsequent significant changes being proposed to the petitioner’s request for a rezone to a PUD to allow for their ALF application, that council’s consideration of the matter be moved to January.

Petitioner’s attorney requested a “continuance” of the item, rather than a rescheduling, due to costs associated with re-noticing all of the abutting property owners.

Attorney Craig Woodward, for the petitioner, requested that the item be heard on January 7. However, Councilor Victor Rios suggested that it would be more prudent to move the item to January 22, to allow for more residents to be present. “This is a matter of transparency,” said Rios.

That motion passed 7-0, and the item will be heard at the Tuesday, January 22 meeting. (The meeting will be held on a Tuesday due to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, January 21.)

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