Why Marco Island needs 10-foot-wide sidewalks on the south end of Collier Boulevard has become a big question mark for some residents and business leaders.
Earlier this month, city officials approved new roadway construction that would include a 191/2-foot-wide median, 11-foot-wide travel lanes, an 8-foot-wide sidewalk on the east side of South Collier, and a 10-foot-wide shared pathway on the beach side.
Bob Dictor, general manager of the Marco Island Marriott Resort, said he fears a tourist will mistake the sidewalk for a travel lane, especially since the sidewalk will be only 1 foot narrower than the street.
"Sooner or later, someone is going to drive onto that sidewalk," Dictor said Sunday afternoon.
He reiterated the fears he communicated publicly to city officials during roadway workshops and the Nov. 10 meeting at which City Council members approved the plan, and in private conversations with Public Works Director Vlad Ryziw and the city's contracted landscape architect Bill Waddell.
Residents first heard about the new plan at an Oct. 27 public workshop on the subject, but most locals spend little time on the island's touristy south end, so there wasn't the debate or outcry as when officials pitched wide sidewalks for the north end of town.
Ryziw said Friday that he has not received one phone call or e-mail from residents opposing the plan passed by council members on Nov. 10.
"I'm surprised I haven't," Ryziw said.
Ryziw will proceed with the plan, and hopes to have another workshop sometime in March.
In the interim, Dictor hopes council members will take a closer look at the proposed streetscape and its rationale.
"We're not building any more hotels. We're at the saturation point," he said Sunday.
Waddell talked about pedestrian traffic between hotels, but even during their busiest weekend, Memorial Day, there's virtually no foot traffic on the sidewalks between hotels. If people want to hotel-hop, they move along the beach, Dictor said.
"This is an expensive waste. ... It's unsafe, and it is not going to look good," Dictor said.
Real estate consultant Roger Withers said that the plan is dangerous.
"There's a safety issue in making it too wide. I am personally in favor of a smaller (width.) I don't want to see golf carts and motorized scooters riding up and down Collier Boulevard," Withers said Friday.
A former Marco Island Chamber of Commerce officer, and a consultant for Massachusetts Mutual Life Assurance Co.'s new spa and condominium project adjacent to the Marriott, Withers stressed that his opinion is his own. Mass. Mutual doesn't have a formal opinion on this issue, he said.
Withers said residents repeatedly have stressed that they want Marco to retain its small seaside village feel.
"Building a super sidewalk is like building a super highway on Marco. It detracts from the village ambience," he said. Furthermore, it is unnecessary. Withers said he's studied the traffic surveys and there don't appear to be any data supporting the expansion.
Waddell has said he wants to build a "great street," but Withers believes 8 feet is plenty for the west sidewalk, and 6 feet is fine for the east.
The South Collier refurbishment is one of the city's largest improvement projects. Renovation of the roadway from San Marco Road to Winterberry Drive is expected to cost $4.77 million in 2004.
Reconstruction of North Collier Boulevard -- from Buttonwood Court to San Marco Road -- is already under way and is expected to cost $600,000 in 2004.
Both projects entail repaving and widening traffic lanes, landscaping medians, upgrading sewers and irrigation, and improving intersections.
Hilton Marco Island Resort general manager Mac Chaudhry could not immediately be reached for comment, but agreed with Dictor at the Oct. 27 workshop: that a driver exiting the hotel property might cautiously look for vehicular traffic in either direction, but might not stop to consider that bicyclists also will be riding in both directions on just one side of the road.
City sidewalks vary in width, but are currently about 4 feet wide.
South Collier reconstruction funds come from several sources. A Collier County grant will contribute $208,000.
City officials would bond out $1 million of the work, and expect $2.28 million in contributions from other government agencies and at least one corporate partner.
Mass. Mutual, owner of the Marco Marriott, is kicking in $2.5 million.
Dictor said he hasn't approached council members since the Nov. 10 decision, but might try to discuss the issue again with Councilman Glenn Tucker, who cast one of two dissenting votes on the plan, along with Councilman John Arceri. Tucker has fought for modest increases in sidewalk widths on both the north and south ends of Collier.