Friday, December 3, 2021

Planning Board Deals with Streamlining Process


Photos by Steve Stefanides


 

The Shops of Marco which is undergoing a major face lift with the replacement of the old Publix (big) grocery store with a new state-of-the-art facility, came before the Marco Island Planning Board on Friday, May 7, to seek an amendment to its previously approved Site Development Plan for the ongoing redevelopment of its property at the intersection of San Marco Road and Barfield Drive.

They were seeking a change that involved the addition of two handicap-accessible parking spaces. Those two spaces would replace two normal parking spots but would not affect the overall parking matrix for the property.

William Schroeder, a part owner of Salon and Spa Botanica which is located within the center, complimented the Publix management team for working with his company to recognize the need for the addition of those spaces, especially given the demographic of the population base that frequents businesses located within the complex.

Publix will also be replacing some landscaping that was damaged as part of the construction which is ongoing within the complex.

The board approved the amendment 6-0. Board Member Tom Swartz was absent from the meeting.

Streamlining Process Referred Back to Staff

The Marco Island City Council delved into complicated discussion regarding the process of dealing with minor Site Development Plan deviations after initial approval. In 2014, Councilors chose to change the process and require that minor changes come back to Council for approval after review by staff and the Planning Board.

It was recommended that minor changes to an approved Site Development Plan of less than 10% be left to staff to handle, eliminating the requirement to come back before the Planning Board or Council, so long as the changes do not require a variance, conditional use or any exceptions.

Board member David Vergo addressed the cumbersome process required of a business owner when seeking to make relatively simple changes that should not subject the owner to delays that can sometimes require two to three months to obtain, in addition to the costs. “These smaller issues should be able to be handled by staff,” said Vergo.

Board member Nanette Rivera addressed not allowing issues to become “political” in nature. “I agree with Mr. Vergo and Mr. Honig. We should be dealing with the facts as we determine these issues. The problem that makes issues political is when we have soft language and this document has a considerable amount of that soft language, which is quite impactful,” said Rivera.

Board Chair Jason Bailey agreed with Rivera in so far as her desire to make things more “standards based,” rather than being subjective in nature. Over the years leading up to the changes in 2014, he said he believed that Council had lost faith in staff, for one reason or another, but that over the last several years, Council had somewhat modified their faith in staff decisions.

“I want to know how you are proposing to put standards in place to ensure this is the process going forward,” said Bailey when questioning Daniel Smith, Director of Growth Management.

“That’s already being done by staff,” said Vergo.

Board member Larry Honig commented that the City of Marco Island was the only community of 67 similar cities that had a process in place like Marco’s.

Under public comment, Ed Issler came forward and questioned the fairness of considering the Public Works Director as an “expert witness” with regard to traffic affairs.

Maria Lamb complained about removing the public’s right to be heard if that hearing before Council is removed. “You are here to conduct the people’s business. Expediency versus the voice of the people is not fair and transparent,” said Lamb in opposition to the changes.

The board voted 5-1 to have it referred back to staff to make changes and bring it back at the July meeting of the Board. Only Board Member Rivera objected.

 


 

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