Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Council Wades Through More Issues on Comprehensive Plan


Photos by Steve Stefanides


 

Over the next decade or more, Marco Islanders and future residents and visitors are bound to see a number of changes in the landscape of the community. The exercise that city staff and councilors are engaged in regarding the state requirement to update the city’s Comprehensive Plan every 10 years should help ward off any major impacts to the island that residents have come to enjoy by ensuring safeguards are in place to prevent negative impacts to the community.

However, the process can be tedious and time consuming, as staff, consultants, councilors and the public may not always agree as to which way to proceed. Sometimes just a simple word or phrase may cause participants to debate how it will affect the community character.

Transportation 

On Thursday, April 29, the council, staff and consultants discussed a number of details that are part of the document that will be presented to the State of Florida for its initial review and comments. Once it is referred back to the city with the state’s comments, the city will have the opportunity to respond to those comments and/or make adjustments to the initial document.

Transportation was one of the areas discussed in detail. Councilor Blonna commented on specifics of some of the areas he would like to see considered regarding changes to the “norms” we presently see on the island. That could possibly include a reduction in speed limits on the island to be more friendly to the use of golf carts, electric vehicles, bicycles, scooters and other more energy efficient vehicles. 

His desired changes would also involve giving credits to businesses regarding parking requirements and reductions of impact fees should businesses provide the necessary capital improvements for those changes.

A short discussion was held regarding possible provision for a multi-vehicle parking facility for off-island visitors as well as residents, and the possibility of a shuttle system to provide for less congestion on the island. Councilman Brechnitz commented that he would “prefer to see the marketplace do its magic” and defer the need for the city to be saddled with that type of expense. 

When the discussion turned to the possibility of a “mobility fee” to cover some of those expenses, Brechnitz commented, “No public system across this nation pays for itself. Government just doesn’t do a great job of providing these types of services.” City Manager McNees suggested that council might consider leaving the door open for future discussion, as there may be some options for receiving other forms of capital cost assistance regarding enhancements down the road.

Councilor Irwin floated the idea of “bridges” to connect neighborhoods. She was speaking in a conceptual nature and did not bring forward any specifics. She also once again brought forward the idea of docks at Veterans’ Community Park so people could arrive via their boats. This could provide a delay in the finalization of plans for the park since no discussions of docks have been part of the financial planning for that facility, and no input on that has been sought from neighbors regarding potential impact on them.



Other Areas Discussed

Due to some changes on the state level, there does not appear to be any further requirement for the city to be reviewing the impact of schools, as the state recognizes the future needs planning being done by independent school districts. It also was brought up that there no longer is a need for the city to do planning for concurrency of roads, parks or schools. The city already more than meets those needs requirements.

Councilor Rola, however, was still concerned regarding any further acquisition of lands due to their high costs and the city’s more than adequate compliance with state standards.

The subject of “affordable or workplace housing” once again was discussed. Councilor Babrowski interjected that the entire area within Southwest Florida, and specifically Marco Island, is dealing with a critical if not crisis level need in regard to workforce housing. The competition for employees has been a topic of discussion at the county level for many years.

Since its incorporation as a city, Marco contributed $50,000 annually to the county up until 2013. They did so due to the reality of the cost of land on Marco. Consultants hired to assist staff and council advised council they would have to address the issue, as it would be one area in which the state has a keen interest.

Although councilors recognized the issue as being an important one needing to be addressed, they were not confident in dealing with it during that meeting and deferred discussions to a meeting in the future before finalizing their work.

Public Comments

Dwight Goslee of Treasure Court came forward to discuss the three major areas he felt should be addressed in the city’s creation of a new Comprehensive Plan for the community.

  • He voiced his concerns regarding the escalation of issues surrounding short-term rentals which seem to be impacting not only Marco Island, but the entire State of Florida and elsewhere. Goslee commented that the city’s zoning ordinance specifically spells out what can be in single family home neighborhoods, and that the city attorney had spoken to that issue in a council meeting in 2009, opining that they were not listed as a right in a single-family neighborhood and suggesting council deal with the matter. One of those options would have been allowing them as what is referred to as a “Conditional Use,” and placing conditions on that usage. Most recently he has taken a polar opposite stance in a memo to council. The city attorney is one of two employees directly responsible to council. The other is the city manager.
  • What can be done about the impact of off-island growth along SR-951? “The growth out there will be coming here with regard to traffic, parking, trash and demands on our beaches,” said Goslee.
  • The importance of addressing water quality and identifying the source of those issues and developing a plan to deal with them said Goslee.

Council will meet again in May to attempt to begin a wrap-up of loose ends prior to finalizing the document.

 



 

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