Monday, December 6, 2021

City of Marco Island Moving Forward on Comprehensive Plan Review

Photos by Steve Stefanides | Alexis Crespo of Waldrop Engineering explaining the Comprehensive Plan Review process.

Issues regarding how planning has been done within the city began to deteriorate in early 2014 when thenInterim City Manager Guillermo Polanco dismissed Community Affairs Director Bryan Milk from his position. 

At the January 6 council meeting back in 2014, Polanco cited the City of Marco Island Personnel Rules and Florida State Statues as he outlined what he perceived as a direct conflict regarding Mr. Milk’s previous interests in an investment known as BML, LLC. That LLC (Limited Liability Corporation) was created by Milk in conjunction with Michael and Lisa Kelly of 740 Bald Eagle Drive (The Progressive Auto Service, Inc.). 

Shortly after the creation of the LLC, Milk dissolved his interest and a $250,000 promissory note was created for his interest and held by Mr. Kelly in an interest-bearing account at the request of Milk. 

Citing the seriousness of the matter, Councilor Larry Honig in conjunction with thenCouncilor Chuck Kiester moved to request an independent investigation be held into the firing of Milk. That vote was defeated 5 to 2 with only Honig and Kiester voting in favor. Milk’s dismissal would begin a downward spiral within the Planning Department over the next few years. 

Since incorporation, no less than seven individuals have headed that department overseeing its zoning and planning operations. Greg Niles, Vince Coutero, Steve Omstead, K. Van Langen, Bryan Milk, Joseph Irvin and Tammy Scott have supervised that department.  

The choice of Daniel Smith, in June of 2017, was seen as adding stability to the important department. Smith was amongst 14 applicants from inside and outside the State of Florida for the position. He had served the last 3 ½ years as a Principal Planning and Zoning Administrator for Collier County. Smith grew up in the Mid-West and was a graduate of Michigan State, with a B.S. in Landscape Architecture and completed much of his work for a Master’s in Public Administration. He is also a certified planner and a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. 

Daniel Smith Community Affairs Director.

His initial experiences came from Wheaton, Illinois where he dealt in environmental, stormwater management and landscape issues for that community of 50,000 residents. He then moved on to Warren, Michigan, a community of 150,000 residents and worked another 20 years in both capital projects for their Public Works Department and within the city planning department. 

In addition to planning, thenInterim City Manager Polanco, once again sitting in the corner office would determine that Smith was the right person to place the troubled Building Services Department under. 

Smith soon came aboard as the city was entering a review of the Land Development Code (LDC) and updating the Comprehensive Plan for the island. The city had already begun a review of the LDC to update language that was out of date and other “glitches,” that appeared within it before moving onto tackling the issues concerning the Comprehensive Plan. Then along came Irma in September of 2017, placing everything non-essential on the back burner. 

On Friday, June 5th, Alexis Crespo of Waldrop Engineering came before the Planning Board and updated them on the initiation of the project to update the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Her desire was to inform the board and the general public that the team which will be undertaking this task was moving forward and wanted a clear and transparent process to ensure the public will be able to give input on those discussions as they move forward. 

She explained that the team would consist of Dr. Margaret Banyan or Florida Gulf Coast University. Dr. Banyan has extensive experience in this area and in municipal planning. She would be taking the lead role in the project. 

In addition, Dan Trescott of Trescott Planning Solutions, who has a wide background in Coastal Planning, would then join the team. 

Ms. Crespo of Waldrop Engineering would be the third member of the team and bringing her experience in the planning field and is a certified planner. 

One of the reasons that Waldrop Engineering was chosen for the project was the fact that they do not presently do any development work on Marco Island, therefore eliminating any possible conflicts of interest. 

The city’s present Comprehensive Plan is now 11 years old and it is customary that it be updated every 10 years.  

Significant changes in state law will have to be updated to make it consistent with present state law. 

Another area that will be of concern deals with redevelopment, as the available untouched areas on the island are quickly being developed. The redevelopment aspect has been a subject spoken about during recent discussions as to the impact on the island. 

The recent Strategic Plan which was developed through public input and council vote will be another area reviewed to ensure that vision is reflected in the updated Comprehensive Plan. 

The Comprehensive Plan is not a regulatory document. Instead, it builds the policy statement, programs and public investment to ensure the vision for the future is acquired. The LDC provides more of that regulatory language and process. 

Phase 1 of the project is expected to be brought back by September 30th, with the second phase of the project anticipated by September 30, 2021. It is anticipated that a number of public meetings will be held throughout the upcoming 2 years. 

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