Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Brechnitz Retained as Planning Chairman

Planning Board Chairman Erik Brechnitz Photos by Steve Stefanides

Planning Board Chairman Erik Brechnitz Photos by Steve Stefanides

In a departure from the norm, the Marco Island Planning Board skipped the elevation of the sitting vice-chair to that of chairman after one year. Although nothing is set in stone, it has been tradition that one would only serve one year as chairman and then see the vice-chair assume that role.

At the recent meeting, the board had three names nominated to fill the chairman’s position. Those three consisted of Frank Mulligan, who was nominated by board member Richard Adams. Board member Dr. Ron Goldstein questioned the nomination, as Mulligan was not present to accept the position. After a short discussion Chairman Erik Brechnitz ruled that the name could remain in nomination, as there was not precedent for not accepting it.

Chairman Brechnitz (left) speaks with board member Issler.

Chairman Brechnitz (left) speaks with board member Issler.

Goldstein then placed the name of the present Chairman, Brechnitz into nomination. Brechnitz agreed to serve a second term should he be elected.

The third name to be placed into nomination was that of the present Vice-Chairman Ed Issler by Board Member Joe Rola.

Voting would commence on each name with nomination of Frank Mulligan failing by a 5-1 vote with only Adams voting in the affirmative.

The second name to be voted upon was that of Erik Brechnitz. He received affirmative votes by Adams, Vergo, Goldstein and Brechnitz, providing for a 4-2 majority with Issler and Rola voting against.

The Issler nomination was therefore not voted upon as Brechnitz received the requisite majority, negating the need for another vote.

The vote was then held for the position of Vice Chair and Brechnitz moved the nomination of Dr. Ron Goldstein for that position. This was the position held by Issler. Hearing no further nominations the board voted unanimously to elect Goldstein to that position.

Issler in the last several months had been seen as hardening his position relative to wanting to see lot coverage reduced by new homes, whether on vacant lots or tear downs. This was an effort on his part to reduce some of the visual impact of growth and run-off issues that could affect waterway pollution by providing more permeable areas on residential lots.

Site Plan Review Procedures

In the last several months some discussions have been ongoing as to streamlining the Site Plan Review Procedures to go back to the past practice of having staff handle that internally.

Daniel Smith, the city’s Growth Management Director brought forward a new ordinance which would have had staff handle all reviews of Site Plans that have no deviations from the city’s codes. This request was at the direction of city council.

However, should a plan come forward that would require a deviation or variance it would have to go to both council and the planning board.

Board member Issler and Goldstein were concerned that even if the plans met all the requirements of the zoning and comprehensive plan, that the public wouldn’t be allowed to voice their opinions on those plans and they would only be approved only by staff.

Former councilman and Planning Board member Bill Trotter came forward to voice some of the same concerns, but supported a suggestion by Issler that if council didn’t want to see these items, maybe the Planning Board could hold a public hearing for the general public should they have an interest or desire to add suggestions.

Jason Bailey, a local builder would question the need, in as all requirements were being met by the code and the danger would lie in personal opinions and preferences, rather than recognizing the fact that the plans met all of the zoning and planning requirements. He also brought up the potential of abridging property rights of owners, to satisfy personal preferences of others.

“You have a responsible and professional staff, not sure this is necessary,” said Bailey.

Erik Condee was concerned that the present system was broken. “If a plan meets all the codes it shouldn’t have personal objections of individuals holding it up,” said Condee.

Local attorney Craig Woodward would also voice similar concerns. “You don’t have the right to turn down something that meets all the codes,” said Woodward. He went on to cite several examples of the dangers of continuing to slow down projects that meet all of the requirements and letting them slide into the political arena.

The board would request that the ordinance be amended to include the requirement of adding one public hearing before just the Planning Board to allow the public to comment. The wording would be changed and the ordinance brought back at the March 2 meeting of the board for approval and transfer to the city council.

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