Marco planning board puts foot down

Rejection recommended for Public Works request

Marco Island’s Planning Board generally assumes a role of decision-making, not discipline. But on Friday morning, the council-appointed board found itself doing both, scolding the Public Works department for what some members said was a simple case of being a bad neighbor.

The board also voted 5-1 to recommend rejection of a conditional use permit by Public Works Director Rony Joel to relocate the collections and distribution arm of the utility to the city’s south plant, which abuts Mackle Park and a neighborhood of single family homes. Board member Vince Magee voted in the minority, and member Monte Lazarus was absent.

However, the board’s vote does not prevent the request from going forward to City Council for deliberation. It simply stands as a resounding disapproval by the board, which acts in an advisory capacity to the council.

The request included plans to move 12 utility employees to that location as a base of operations, plus an intent to locate four steel storage containers at the site. Joel explained to the board that three of the containers were already there, and he would be adding a fourth.

But the plan was rejected after testimony from four residents, three of whom recounted experiencing more than a year of constant disruptions from noise, smell, dust and even leering workers peeking over the fence and through the window of one home.

Joel was earnest in addressing the complaints from those residents living near the plant, calling the concerns “legitimate” and the behavior of contractor workers “totally inappropriate,” but the board indicated that it wanted some resolution to the issues before it could condone the conditional use.

“It doesn’t sound like you’re being a good neighbor,” Magee said. “You’ve got to make some specific rules. When people come onto city property they’ve got to conduct themselves with some dignity.”

As part of his vote to approve the request, Magee stipulated that Joel should draft an apology letter to the resident who reported that workers have repeatedly peered over her back yard fence and through her kitchen window at she and her 19-year-old daughter. He also requested that Joel send letters to all city contractors outlining the city’s expectations for good behavior when they are on the island.

“I feel for your position, Rony, and I want to support it, but there needs to be a code of conduct for how these people act and how they represent us.”

Board member Brian Moss told Joel he could not support the request because he felt that Joel had done little to look into alternative locations for the collection and distribution staff. The 12 workers need to be relocated from the north facility, Joel said, because upgrades to that plant are imminent, and five structures — including one housing those employees — would be demolished as contractors begin work at the site.

Member Marv Needles spoke similarly to Moss following his “no” vote.

“I think if the alternatives were better addressed and identified in terms of other locations, I would be comfortable with it,” Needles said. “I just haven’t seen an explanation of why other locations would not be okay.”

Joel tried to deflect some of the criticism, saying that the south plant is the only area with the room to accommodate the workers, who need facilities to shower and change, as they often have the dirty job of fixing water and sewer leaks.

“We have over three water leaks a day on the island,” Joel said. “It’s a busy crew.”

He said, too, that much of the noise and disruption residents were complaining about was related to expansions at the south plant and the use of the site as a staging area.

“The neighborhood has had a legitimate complaint in the past when we have used that facility for staging, debris and loading,” Joel said. “That activity stopped over six months ago.”

That comment elicited outraged comments from the few residents present, one of whom shouted, “Liar, liar, liar. I have it on tape.”

Mike Sullivan, a resident whose property abuts the plant, told the board that Joel has acted toward him with arrogance and that public works activities are “ruining people’s property.”

“You are our last hope to stop him from doing stuff back there,” Sullivan said.

After the board voted, Sullivan and his fellow residents each approached the board members to shake their hands and thank them. However, the request will now continue forward for City Council deliberation, with the board’s recommendation attached.

© 2008 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 5

Motu writes:

When did Public Works get approval to operate in Mackle Park?

It is odd that Public Works moves in before requesting a Conditional Use permit.

This recent CU request includes Mackle Park as an adjacent property.

Mackle Park hosts Public Works dump site etc. in violation of the deed restrictions.

Click here http://www.34145.com/Park/Deed1.jpg

My street [Lily] was paved but it's now dirt.

The air was clean but now is full of dust, dirt and diesel fumes.

Careful walking to and from the park due to crazy excessive truck traffic.

Not safe to allow children to play in the park behind our home.

Drive in and see for yourself.

You'll see a mess known as Mackle Park and the start of a bigger mess.

Ben Powell
399 Heathwood Drag
Marco Island

239-394-2499

lauralbi1 writes:

Hooray for the Planning Board !!! We must do what we can to support their decision and make certain that Council is aware of what is happening here. It just seems that more could be done to separate and mitigate the impact of these two land uses being adjacent to each other. Maybe a high fence with landscaping ?? Those affected should start coming up with suggestions for all citizens to support them. I suggest to the affected neighbors to also contact MICA, as they are responsible for enforcement of the Deed Restrictions. If you get their support, that will go a long way to helping your cause.
Ed Issler

MSullivan writes:

“The neighborhood has had a legitimate complaint in the past when we have used that facility for staging, debris and loading,” Joel said. “That activity stopped over six months ago.”
Joel has now lied under oath to the Planning Board. It should have stopped over 6 months ago as he and Moss had promised the residents - but it has not. The "elicited outraged comments" Ms Williams reported probably had to do with the fact that the whole neighborhood was woke up at 6:45am that morning by one of the trucks Joel claims stopped over 6 months ago.
Apparently Joel has about as much disrespect for the Planning Board as the residents. He has already started outside storage, underground utilities have been being put in for the past week and he had the grand opening of his new offices with over a dozen cars and city trucks before 7am yesterday morning.
Here's some more interesting facts -

1.) This disregard for citizens rights has been going on for well over a year.
see- http://resortphotographics.com/SWTP/B...

2.) This Public Hearing was the ONLY time any residents were informed about anything regarding the South Plant. A number of my neighbors DID NOT receive notice and the required sign on their property had the wrong date. Yet abuse of this area has been going on for years.

3.) There were never any plans to expand this facility other than possibly an additional water tank. That is why I bought my home here 20 years ago. Since the city bought it, there has been constant noise, smell and traffic which makes it an unsafe environment to raise my 2 young children in.

I am asking for the help of my fellow Islanders. Please write your Councilmen and let them know that this type of activity in a Residential Single Family zoned area along with Mr. Joel lying under oath will not be tolerated.

Thank you,

Mike Sullivan

Please feel free to call if you would like to discuss this. (239)394-3295

Motu writes:

Mr. Issler,

As I remember:

I approached a fellow at MICA a couple years ago. He came to my home and then went to the crime scene and took pictures etc.

He informed me there was probably nothing he could do to enforce the deed restrictions but he would look into the situation.

He understands my frustration since boat trailers were parked in his neighborhood, possibly violating deed restrictions, and he was ignored by City Hall.

Almost immediately after my complaint to MICA the City doubled its illegal presence in my backyard.
I interpreted this response as harassment.

When Mr. Minozzi visited the crime scene and suggested [with a shrug] that I file a law suit against the city I concluded the situation is some type of strong-arm government stance that I am unable to understand.

If I remember correctly, the representative who visited the crime scene was the MICA president.

Thanks for your input.

Ben Powell
399 Heathwood Drag
Marco Island
230-394-2499

MSullivan writes:

Mr. Issler,
Congratulations. I'm really proud of your progress. Your above post is quite rational and almost sounds like you are genuinely concerned.

Quite the contrast to your post almost a year ago on the same problem which is still going on.

see - http://www.marconews.com/news/2007/ma...

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