Saturday, November 27, 2021

Patience, Perseverance, & Compromise Win the Day

Photos by Steve Stefanides


As far back as November of 2016, Walt Chancey of the Chancey Design Group has had his eye on Marco Island for but another of his successful ventures in the world of Assisted Living Facilities (ALF). That would begin a long and somewhat turbulent journey at times.

It would be on November 4, 2016, four years and three months ago, that Chancey would test the waters of Marco Island’s acceptance of the ALF concept. The small conservative island just south of Naples would prove to be a more difficult sell than most of those communities that Chancey had previously dealt with in the past. 

Upon the invitation of the city staff, they came forward on November 4, 2016, to gauge the understanding of the ambiguous language found within the city codes and zoning documents before moving ahead any further. 

Their presentation was warmly met by the Planning Board which found Chancey’s staff peppered with questions while receiving a few themselves.

One of the major issues discussed had to do with the vague and unclear nature of how an ALF would be defined for purposes of these discussions. The definitions dealing with “intensity vs. density” were a major factor in those discussions.

Marco Island remained on the radar of Walt Chancey over the next year as Chancey continued to work on a proposal that he believed would work for the community using a business plan he had developed over his years.

When Chancey would finally unwrap his vision for the Marco Island project, it would have combined independent living, along with ALF services and a memory care segment of the operation. That plan would first be seen in the Spring of 2018. 

Chancey presented a facility with independent living, assisted living and memory care. “This will be a state-of-the-art with all levels of care so people can age-in-place, with all the amenities and services, from rehabilitation through wellness and fitness, with amenities such as movie rooms and dining rooms.”

To sweeten the pot a bit, it was announced that the purchase of the necessary property from NCH would result in a five-million-dollar windfall for NCH. It was anticipated that NCH would build a totally new Urgent Care Facility for island residents, a prospect that many could support.

By the early summer of 2018, questions began to arise as to the plans as presented by Chancey.

At a meeting in June of the Planning Board, then-Chairman Erik Brechnitz attempted to focus the discussions on the viability of “group facilities,” and their practicality on Marco Island, either as a commercially zoned entity or as a residentially zoned use.

Board member Ed Issler questioned the rationale of placing such a facility on a barrier island and would reference the recent issues surrounding the impact of Hurricane Irma, which was all still fresh in the minds of Marco residents. He also pointed out that the facilities might impact density, by adding the potential of 650 possible residents, some with physical issues requiring special needs.

Throughout 2018 and early into 2019, debate would rage regarding the pros and cons considering the potential merits, as well as the detrimental nature of the project as seen by neighbors and others across the island.

Since the outset of the discussions regarding the potential of creation of the project, a number of the seats on both the planning board and the city council would change hands, the most significant came with the election of Erik Brechnitz to the council from his previous position on the planning board. 

In January of 2019, council would engage in a lengthy discussion relative to the project and when all was said and done it failed to acquire the necessary majority vote for approval. An attempt at reconsideration would also fail and the project stayed in limbo until later in 2020 when an amended and smaller project would be presented.

Chancey and his team were required to wait one year before attempting to receive another bite at the apple. Throughout 2020, he would meet with staff and residents as he presented a scaled-down prospect for the project.

On Monday, April 5, council approved a project that would be more in line with the desires of council and residents.

  • Density reduced from the original plans for 200+ units to an 86-unit/92-bed assisted living and memory care facility.
  • Elimination of independent living units, significantly reducing traffic concerns.
  • Total project size reduced to 10 acres overall and the city to be deeded a public park and public waterfront access.
  • Total height of ALF building to be 35 feet +1.
  • The ALF Building to be 300 feet from the nearest Waterside Condominium Residence.
  • Concerns over consistency with City’s Comprehensive Plan met staffs’ desires.
  • A commitment from NCH to have the proceeds be earmarked for either a new Urgent Care or upgrades to existing services.
  • No changes to potential uses would be allowed without further review.

Only Councilor Rola objected due to concerns regarding density. The project will still have to return for review of the final site plans.



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