Saturday, October 16, 2021

Permitting & Planning Discussed

At the last City Council meeting in February, Community Affairs Director Daniel Smith had been presenting an update regarding the improvements being made within those departments under his control. Those areas include planning and zoning, permitting, building services and recreation and parks. 

Smith came forward on that evening to speak to the progress which has been made within the Building Services Department as well as Planning and Permitting and thanked the council for their support regarding the modernization of their process. 

When Smith arrived in 2017, the departments had been through a considerable amount of turmoil and personnel turnover, which resulted in a disruption of services to those they would be serving. Smith was proud to announce that they now had over 45 years of cumulative experience in senior staff personnel, versus only 5 years when he arrived. He also reported to the council that they were now fully staffed within those departments and have made great progress in turning around permitting times and inspection scheduling. 

Some of those improvements lie in the automated processes which have been implemented in the last year. Another area of improvement came about by “looping in” the property owner to keep them advised of the progress of their project. They have access through a citizen portal over the internet to track what may or may not be being done in regard to their project. 

Another area which Smith touched upon dealt with the need to update the Comprehensive Plan for the city. State statutes require that each community within the state update their individual plans on a regular basis. The Comprehensive Plan provides a blueprint for orderly and sustainable land development in the future.  

Councilman Larry Honig pointed out that the council had just completed a Strategic Plan for the community, laying out the vision which the council had developed moving forward over the next 15 years, which left him questioning whether that shouldn’t suffice rather than updating the Comprehensive Plan. 

That Strategic Plan was developed over the spring and summer of last year. The process began in early April when a group of citizens, appointed by the council, were gathered at the Rose Historical Auditorium on the campus of the Marco Island Historical Society. They gave their input on a number of subjects. Those thoughts were categorized and presented to the council when they met during two separate sessions to work with those ideas, along with their own. 

Although the recently completed Strategic Plan exercise does speak to goals and objectives, it fails to deal with zoning and land development regulations. Professionals believe that for a Comprehensive Plan to stay relevant, it must be updated on a regular basis. This might be particularly germane to Marco as “redevelopment” may be especially front and center in the next decade.  

Smith requested that Mary Holden, the city’s Senior Planner, walk the council through the process and the need to update that plan. Holden explained “elements” of such a plan which are required. 

Key Elements of that plan must include the following: 

  • Capital Improvement Plan 
  • Future Land Use Plan 
  • Transportation plan 
  • General Sanitary Sewer, Solid Waste, Drainage, Potable Water and natural groundwater and aquifer recharge. 
  • Conservation 
  • Recreation 
  • Housing 
  • Open Space 
  • Coastal Management 
  • Inter-Governmental Coordination 

For over a year now, the city has been discussing the need to address the updating of the community’s official Comprehensive Plan. All communities within the state are required by Section 163.3177 of Florida State Statutes to have such a document and update it regularly. 

The Comprehensive Plan for the city is now over 10 years old and the Planning Board was advised at its December meeting that the staff is moving forward to request a Request for Qualifications from firms who might assist staff and the various advisory boards as how to move forward to fabricate such an updated document. 

Simply put, a Comprehensive Plan guides a community in how to guide growth within a community and lays down principals by which that growth will be permitted. That plan would be developed by the residents and businesses within a community and might be especially important given all the ongoing debate over environmental and water quality issues which have been so widely discussed over the last 2 years. 

Once onboard, the consultant would work with staff regarding the development of a schedule for various public meetings amongst numerous groups such as businesses, organizations, governmental entities and regulatory bodies. 

In addition to those opportunities for input, meetings will be scheduled with residents, both seasonal and fulltime to ensure they are part of the process.  

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