Lisa Conley, firstname.lastname@example.org; 239-213-530812:15 p.m. EDT August 11, 2016
Marco Island residents and business professionals gathered this week to provide city staff with input regarding the revision of the land development code.
Earlier this year the City Council approved a resolution for the city's planning board to enter into a contract agreement with Calvin, Giordano and Associates, Inc. to revise the city's land development code (LDC), according to previous reporting. The city adopted the code – which was based on Collier County’s – in 2001 and the last update was seven years ago, according a staff report.
The community input meeting was Wednesday night in City Council chambers. City staff hosted the meeting, which began with an introduction of the LDC and comprehensive plan, a timeline for the revisions and preliminary findings and issues identified by staff.
Sarah Propst, Planner II, said the purpose of the update is to fix irregularities within the code and make it easier to understand.
“We’ve run into quite a few inconsistencies,” she said, “and sometimes it’s just confusing.”
Richard Cannone of Calvin, Giordano and Associates, Inc. provided residents with some examples of the inconsistencies, such as the utility shed regulations; one section of the code prohibits freestanding utility sheds while another section of the code allows them so long as there is no more than 10 feet between the main building and the shed.
“We’re trying to figure out what was truly the intent [of the code],” he said.
In addition to inconsistencies, Cannone said, the language of the code is unclear. The landscaping section of the code is particularly troublesome, he said.
“I had to read it three times and I deal with a lot of codes,” he said. “It shouldn’t be this difficult [to understand.]”
Several residents at the meeting expressed concern about the continual development of the island, especially with regards to the construction of high-rise hotels.
“Pretty soon we’re going to be like New York or Miami,” one resident said.
Another resident said he will do “everything in [his] power” to promote and sustain the small town feel that first attracted him to the island.
City staff assured residents that the purpose of the update is, in fact, to “strengthen and protect the small town feel and look of the island.” By not changing the code, staff said, the look and feel of the island may automatically change because “we don’t have appropriate safeguards in place.”
City Manager Roger Hernstadt also emphasized that the update is going to be a “slow and deliberate process” with multiple public meetings taking place before any decisions or changes are made.
City staff also held three ‘stakeholder’ meetings yesterday for developers, contractors, business owners, special interest groups and other professionals.
At the first meeting of the day the stakeholders expressed the widely-held opinion that parking is the island’s biggest problem. Several of the stakeholders said the city should do more to alleviate the problem, possibly by building a parking lot for public use.
The stakeholders also said city staff hasn’t consistently enforced the LDC throughout the years – especially when there’s been a turnover in administration – which has caused some confusion. But just because the code hasn’t always been enforced doesn’t mean it’s not the law, Zoning Administrator Tami Scott said.
“Some [people] think that the LDC is just a suggestion or recommendation,” she said, “it’s not; it’s a code of law.”
She also said city staff isn’t opposed to changing the code to make it easier for the stakeholders to operate, which is why the input meetings are so important.
Cannone said he will compile the suggestions and concerns from this week’s meetings and present it to the Planning Board at its Aug. 19 meeting. The entire revision process is expected to be complete by November of next year.
Residents can learn more about the revision process and submit their comments, questions and concerns at marcocode.cgasolutions.com.