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Stormy seas have made a tough passage for the Marco Island Yacht Club’s proposal to build two massive docks into the Marco River, but it has finally made it to the last stage of its voyage before City Council.
But while the last leg of the proposal’s trip was anything but smooth sailing, it could be facing its toughest battle yet Monday at 5:30.
City ordinance requires a petitioner to get permission for any dock facility protruding more than 20 feet into a waterway, so the club will have to do a lot of convincing to get the 319-foot facility through.
The request follows on the heels of another boat dock extension heard by the Marco Island City Council at its last session, held Feb. 19. That request was for 140 single-boat finger docks bordering the South Seas Condominiums, some as large as 50 feet in length. That extension was approved — just barely — by a 4-2 margin, after the council aired out concerns from residents that the docks would unduly increase boat traffic, obscure views and cause additional pollution.
Many of those same issues are expected to arise before the council Monday, in both communications from city planning staff and from residents.
Resident e-mails addressing the plan call it “ridiculous,” “invasive” and “an accident waiting to happen.”
Those concerns came up at every meeting of the planning board addressing the request, starting in August of 2007, when the plans called for a 402-foot dock and a second 247-foot dock, totaling 40 boat slips.
The third time was a charm, though, for the yacht club’s request before the Planning Board in January. By that point, plans had been scaled back to 319 feet for the longer, L-shaped dock extending out parallel to the Chestnut waterway. A second, smaller, T-shaped dock fits inside that at 223 feet.
Plans currently call for 30 slips rather than the original 40.
Literature prepared by the city’s community development staff calls the proposal “excessive” and charges that it does not address city staff’s concerns.
“Nor does it enhance Marco Island’s quality of life, environmental quality and tropical small town character,” stated a January memo to the Planning Board, echoing the language in the city’s Comprehensive Plan.
The conditional use permit passed the Planning Board 5-1, and the boat dock extension passed by 4-2. Board member David Caruso recused himself from voting.
Though it was the third hearing of the request before the board, the plans were in their fourth manifestation since August of 2007. A third version was never heard by the Planning Board during a scheduled Oct. 5 hearing, when the drawings still called for 39 wet slips, with the longest dock at 333 feet. The yacht club requested a continuance of the hearing at that meeting, citing the need to iron out details before appearing again.
Since then, the Marco Island Marina Association has been dropped as a co-petitioner on the request.
The original intent was for the marina to own 10 of the slips, sharing in the costs of construction and providing the additional parking needed to justify the new slips. Yacht club Vice Chair Rudi Landwaard said Wednesday that the club would be going it alone, though the request indicates that the club still has access to the marina parking needed to service the new slips.
“I think it makes it easier, because basically now we have to make a decision just for the yacht club,” Landwaard said. “It was more complicated before when it was 30 for the yacht club, 10 slips for MIMA.”
Landwaard, who is also chair of the club’s ad hoc committee on the docks’ planning, said he could not comment on why the marina association had dropped out as a partner in the project.
“You would have to ask them. They have opted out,” he said.
Marco Island Marina Association President Carl Westman did not return phone calls seeking comment Wednesday and was out of the office Thursday, according to his receptionist.
The Marco Island Marina currently has its own docking facility inside the Chestnut Waterway, with eight slips under the control of the yacht club.
But Landwaard said it is not nearly enough to satisfy the club’s needs.
“We are basically a yacht club without a marina,” he said.
During previous Planning Board deliberations, many members expressed willingness to vote for the plans if they were simply reduced in size. The current plans are 83 feet shorter than the original design, though staff concerns persist that the docks would jut too far into the Marco River, which is 1,500 feet wide at the yacht club.
“We’ve done everything we can, and we are going to continue to try to be good citizens,” said Marco Island Yacht Club Chairman Rich Michaels. “We adjusted on every dimension based on what they requested.”
Vice Chair Landwaard has repeatedly stated before the Planning Board that the plan would not be financially viable if the club were to go any smaller than 30 slips.
During the September meeting, Planning Board Chair James Riviere said that both the docks and city staff’s concerns were oversized and needed to be scaled back.
Other than concerns about proximity to the Jolley Bridge, a high-tension tower, the nearby beach and a state right-of-way, staff comments report that the longer dock could hinder navigation into and out of the Chestnut waterway, which is 151 feet wide.
A letter from engineer Joseph Cunningham, of Turrell, Hall & Associates, dated Dec. 21, argues that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has reviewed the original, larger plan and decreed that there are no navigational issues.
Landwaard said he is positive that council will carefully consider the plan, particularly after the hearing for the South Seas docks, which passed after roughly two hours of public comment both for and against the request.
“I hope that everything gets looked at, that the City Council asks pertinent questions,” he said. “I asked them to come and take a look at the project. I hope they have done their homework. I can’t do too much else.”
Marco Island City Council will meet early Monday at 3:30 p.m. in the community room of the Marco Island Police Department building, located at 51 Bald Eagle Drive. The yacht club’s proposal will be heard after 5:30, the time advertised for the public hearing required by law.