Monday, December 6, 2021

How Much is Too Much?

Planning Board member, Ed Issler Photos by Steve Stefanides

Planning Board member, Ed Issler Photos by Steve Stefanides

During the last several months, the Marco Island Planning Board has struggled with issues concerning updating the Land Development Code (LDC). Discussions have centered on bringing the old code into conformance today by updating language and defining terms. The Planning Board is also attempting to simplify some of the setback requirements to bring conformance to the Deltona Deed Restrictions, which would eliminate discrepancies and possible future issues.

Some of those issues and fixes have been relatively simple in nature, while others have required considerable discussion and lengthy review. One such area deals with two separate issues that are on the minds of many islanders, and are somewhat linked.

Alternatives in a driveway for a more permeable surface, which may allow for better water quality in our canals.

Alternatives in a driveway for a more permeable surface, which may allow for better water quality in our canals.

The issue of lot coverage by impervious materials, such as buildings, driveways, pools and walkways, is directly linked to both runoff into waterways and the available green space on a residential lot.

Discussions on this item were front and center when the Planning Board met early this month. Board member Ed Issler instigated the discussion on how to protect the “character” of the island, while also providing additional protection to waterways from runoff into canals and bays.

Daniel Smith, Marco Island’s Director of Community Affairs noted that the types of buildings and accessory structures have changed considerably over the last 30 years, and that lot coverage is now being maximized. “The accessory structures are increasing so as to pretty much building out the lots. Those are things which probably should be looked into to see what we want as a community,” said Smith.

“I think we have the opportunity to bring back the character of our island,” said board member Issler. “I think we have too much asphalt and concrete and we should consider the appearance of the island, just not the permeability of the surface structures,” Issler continued.

Groups such as the Marco Island Fishing Club are pushing for a more focused effort to deal with runoff from both commercial and residential areas. One of those methods involves more percolation into the ground by runoff water. This is in opposition to direct discharge into the waterways due to increased pollution from fertilizers and other contaminates, which they contend would be better filtered in that manner.

At the present time, 67% of a residential lot may be covered by impervious materials, such as buildings, driveways, pools and walkways. The remaining 33% must be of pervious materials, with 20% of that number allowed to be “non-organic” materials. The 20% non-organic materials may be pervious, permeable or porous, such as pavers that are certified by the manufacturer to allow water to pass through. The goal in using these types of pavers for stormwater control is to limit runoff at the source, reduce erosion, and improve water quality by filtering pollutants below ground level.

New commercial development initially allows 76% impervious covering of the usable lot size. That can be increased up to 95% coverage if the development utilizes bike racks, interconnectivity of parking lots, pedestrian enhancements, and other allowed credits.

Environmental advocates have also questioned the direct runoff into waterways by collection points along Collier Boulevard. At present, those collection points merely collect large debris such as clipping, trash and other yard waste. They do not deal with contaminates such as oils, fertilizer and other chemicals which can work their way into the waters around the island.

Intended and unintended consequences were also on the minds of board members, and some of the public. “You won’t prevent someone from building; they’ll be building up, not out,” said Jason Bailey, a local contractor who has been an active participant in the discussions regarding the LDC changes.

The city presently limits the height of residential construction to 35 feet, un- less special consideration is given for a home built in what FEMA refers to as the “velocity zones” on the island.

Some feel a possible, but unintended consequence of reducing allowable lot coverage by structures on residential lots may be the reduction in property values. Marco Island resident David Milner was one of the people who voiced this concern when he spoke at the Planning Board meeting. “You’ve got lot values and home values to consider,” said Milner, who added, “This not going to get by council.”

Balancing the discussion on this issue was one of the topics of Planning Board Chairman Erik Brechnitz’s presentation to the Marco Island City Council at their last meeting. Brechnitz reported on this subject as part of his comprehensive report to council on issues that are currently under consideration by the Planning Board.

During the council discussion regarding future agenda items, Councilor Larry Honig stated his belief that the Planning Board was moving too quickly, and expressed concern that the item was becoming a polarizing issue. Honig urged an expedited joint workshop with the Planning Board, instead of allowing the board to continue independent discussions and making a recommendation on the matter. This differed from Vice Chair Charlette Roman’s desire to allow the board to proceed with their deliberations.

“By the time we get to be involved it is too political, it’s too hot,” said Honig, explaining his rationale for wanting to intervene with the board’s discussions. “Builders are getting riled up, I think they’re riled up,” said Honig, who also suggested that a workshop be held. Council made no decision on that issue, which awaits further discussion at a future meeting.

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