Saturday, January 29, 2022

City Docket: Owls, Attorneys, Rentals and the Bridge



By Noelle H. Lowery

While not officially on the Marco Island City Council’s agenda for its Monday, Feb. 2 regular meeting, the $15 million Rose Marina redevelopment project took center stage. Council is slated to discuss the project at its regular Feb. 17 meeting.

At issue were continued citizen concerns about the temporary use permits being applied for by Rose Marina that would allow it to use three sites for boat storage, construction staging and temporary parking during the 6-12 month project. The problem: The site designated for the temporary boat storage is located on four residentially-zoned vacant lots now owned by Rose Marina, and homeowners in surrounding the lots are not happy.

In fact, seven of them addressed city councilors during the Community Forum portion of the meeting. The citizens came armed with copies of internal city emails between Rose Marina representatives and City Zoning Administrator Tami Scott, questioning whether temporary boat storage was an allowed use for a temporary use permit under the city’s Land Development Code and whether deed restrictions on the lots prohibit the use as well.

Then there were the owls — two burrowing owl nests that were discovered on the vacant lots in question. Over the past couple of weeks, some citizens noticed that the two owl nests had been destroyed and began reporting the act to city officials.

During the City Council meeting, it was reported that representatives from Rose Marina had lawfully obtained a permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to remove the nests from the lots in preparation for the project. A copy of the Migratory Bird Nest Removal permit indicates that Rose Marina was authorized to destroy “inactive” (those containing no eggs or flightless young) burrowing owl nests “in association with seawall renovations.”

Council Chairman Larry Sacher assured the citizens that they — and the many others who had contacted City Hall about the Rose Marina project — were being heard and that their concerns would be considered when City Council addressed the project during the Feb. 17 meeting.

In other business, City Council also:

  • Voted 6-1 to contract with Weiss, Serota, Helfman, Cole, Bierman & Popok, P.L. for city attorney services. The decision stems from the growing rift between city councilors and the city’s current law firm of record GrayRobinson P.A. over billing and performance questions. During a Jan. 5 special workshop, City Council voted 6-1 to open up the city attorney search and include two other firms — Weiss, Serota and Lewis, Longman & Walker, P.A. Both firms responded to a request for proposals posted by the city late last year. On Jan. 29, the firms presented their proposals to councilors, and after more than three hours of presentations and discussions, it was decided that a best and final proposal would be requested from both firms and be voted on during Monday’s meeting.
  • Voted 5-2 to approve the city’s new rental ordinance with two caveats. The first allows for a review by the new city attorney along with the possibility of amending the ordinance to avoid any legal pitfalls. The second includes the possibility of revamping the city’s noise ordinance to coincide with the specifications about noise complaints in the rental ordinance.
  • Received an update from Public Works Director Tim Pinter about progress — or lack there of — with the Smokehouse Bay Bridge project. In early January, Pinter reported that Quality Enterprises USA Inc. had requested an additional 33 days to complete the project because of delays and unforeseen conditions. At the time, he added that his staff recommended no more than 14.5 days be added as an extension. Fast-forward a month, and Pinter told City Council that QE is now eight weeks behind schedule.

He added that he sent a notice of non-compliance to QE with a demand that the president of the company come before City Council to provide a schedule for how the contractor is going to bring the project back into compliance.

The set back is a big one for the city. Readers will remember that the ownership group for the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort kicked in an extra $1 million to expedite the bridge project, taking the construction timeline from 18 to 10 months. The motive was to eliminate any potential overlap between the bridge work and construction of the Marriott’s $150 million renovation project.

City officials now must consider their options, including shutting down the project until it can be brought back into compliance or being prepared to assess daily liquidated damages against QE to the tune of $6,242 per day when the time comes. As it stands, Pinter and his staff are considering withholding the monthly $100,000 payment for the expedited schedule. To date, QE has received $400,000 as partial payment for this abbreviated sc

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