Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Council Digs Into Sidewalks

Photos by Steve Stefanides

Marco Island City Council has once again attempted to find a reasonable approach to deal with the sidewalk issues, some of which have troubled residents, staff and councilors for several years

During their March 18 meeting, staff prepared a memorandum for discussion regarding five of those issues which have been major points of contention over the years.

  • How should they deal with issues concerning vacant or unimproved lots with no sidewalks.
  • How to deal with built upon lots which do not presently have sidewalks.
  • What materials may be used to construct sidewalks.
  • What should be the standard for maintenance of sidewalks in need of repair.
  • What to do about recommending vendors/contractors.

Vacant Lots Without Sidewalks

Regarding the first issue they chose to eliminate the need to deal with undeveloped lots but would await a clarification to determine if any of these vacant lots laid within the “safe route to schools” areas, which provide students with a safe manner to reach their school.

Improved Lots Without Sidewalks

The second issue would be somewhat more complexed, as several areas on Marco have unique characteristics such as Hideaway Beach, Key Marco and Old Marco. Although all three areas have developed residential units within them, their unique nature such as being developed as PUDs and the historical nature of Old Marco came into play.

The major routes into the commercial areas in Old Marco are served by sidewalks along Bald Eagle Drive and on Palm Avenue.  Other roadways within Old Marco are narrower and of a quaint nature, and the placement of sidewalks on those streets would be detrimental to their character, as pointed out by several residents.

It was also pointed out that Hideaway Beach and Key Marco are unique as they are private developments and maintain their own roadways.  Council Chairman Erik Brechnitz, who is a resident of Hideaway, pointed out that they have considerable golf cart traffic and strictly enforce a 20-mph speed limit.  Key Marco is also a private gated community and maintains its own infrastructure.

Councilor Victor Rios would point out that treating these three areas differently than others around the island would be creating two classes of citizens in the requirements for sidewalks.

Residents Ron Hattendorf and Tony Schifino of Anglers Cove would come forward to seek council’s assistance in addressing the need for sidewalks down Elkcam Circle.  Their requests for the installation of safe pedestrian walkways in their area began over three years ago when former Councilor Amadeo Petricca first brought up the subject.

“We have 320 residents in our community, many of which would like a safe way to walk or bike down to our pharmacy, grocery stores and restaurants,” said Hattendorf. East Elkcam has considerable commercial traffic as all that area is retail or light industrial and pedestrians are required to walk in the roadway.

That area had been built out years ago prior to the city being incorporated, at a time when Marco Island was under Collier County’s jurisdiction.

Councilors would have consensus regarding the need to exempt those three areas such as Hideaway, Key Marco and small streets off the main arterial roadway coming into Old Marco.

They would have staff investigate the issues regarding the Anglers Cove request and would have consensus on the need to ensure that improved/developed lots would require sidewalks have sidewalks installed in the future.

Materials For Constructing Sidewalks

It was agreed that the standard for material would remain concrete, except for undeveloped or unimproved lots.  In that case, when it came to making repairs, if the initial install on an unimproved lot was done in asphalt it could remain asphalt, until the lot was improved.

Maintenance Standards

Technology has provided contractors with improved methods to accomplish the same desired results.  A flowable material may now be pumped under a slab which allows the “leveling” between adjacent slabs, which eliminates the more expensive method to cut-out and repour entire sections of a sidewalk.

Councilors also agreed to void the 15% rule which required replacement of the old sidewalk to the new standards in place at the time, if more than 15% of your existing sidewalk was impacted by the damage to the old sidewalk.

Resident Ken Honecker came forward during public comment and suggested that council consider continuing the process which required a newly constructed home to build the sidewalk as they do now to the established standards regarding width and material as part of the impact fee to build a home.  The owner would then turn the sidewalk over to city and it would be the city’s responsibility to maintain that capital improvement within the right-of-way.

The city would be able to then utilize any process they desired, to do the repair in-house or to keep a vendor of their choice on hand to facilitate the repairs.

At the present time, the city already maintains those sidewalks which they have installed under the “bike-path programs.” Those monies were received from FDOT (the city is required to contribute matching funds). In addition to that, they maintain the “mixed-use pathways” installed along Collier Boulevard; that work was done during the reconstruction of Collier Boulevard.

Another point made was regarding the failure of the areas that had work done during the STRP programs by the city’s contractor. This was where sidewalks were cut to allow lateral lines to be run to homes and not properly compacted, which eventually caused issues with those sidewalks.

Staff to Come Back to Council

Staff will return to council with suggested changes to the process, based upon the consensus heard from them in the near future.

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