1400 North Collier Boulevard, Marco
Marco Island’s first impression on drivers coming over the Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge is set to change, following a decision by City Council Monday night.
With three of seven council members preparing to step down after Monday’s meeting, the last decision made by Terri DiSciullo, Mike Minozzi and Glenn Tucker in a regular session was a controversial one to allow two large boat docks to be constructed into the Marco River by the Marco Island Yacht Club. The docks, the longest of which will be 319 feet, will be constructed at the base of the bridge, roughly 200 feet from the state right-of-way at the mouth of the bridge.
The yacht club currently does not control its own docking facility, but rather owns eight slips in the nearby Marco Island Marina.
Council passed both the conditional use permit and the dock extension request by a margin of 6-1, with Councilor Bill Trotter voting in the minority. He cited concerns about public safety, echoing the thoughts of residents he says he met while campaigning for re-election to the council in January.
The plan, nearly seven years in the works, finally reached City Council Monday night after three rounds of hearings before the Marco Island Planning Board. The conditional use and the dock extension both passed by 5-1 and 4-2 margins, respectively, before the Planning Board in January.
Amendments were made between each Planning Board hearing, reducing the slip count from 40 to 30 between August of 2007, when the original plan was submitted, to the version discussed by City Council Monday night.
The longer of the two docks has also been scaled back from the 420 feet originally proposed.
However, Community Development Director Steve Olmsted recommended rejection of the application on the basis that the proposed facilities intrude too far into the waterway, are too close to the nearby beach and right-of-way and could impede navigation in and out of the neighboring canal.
He mirrored the sentiments of dozens of residents living near and far from the proposed docks, many of whom sent emails opposing the plan.
Joseph Cunningham, a representative from designer Turrell, Hall & Associates, countered that the club had reduced the size of a slip along the outside edge of the longer dock and changed the type of slips nearest the beach so that a trio of boats could be docked parallel to the facility, rather than pointing at the beach.
“Since the original submittal, we’ve moved the facility nearly 70 feet away from the beach,” Cunningham said. “Furthermore, the original designs had vessels moored inside these slips. Since then, the vessels moored there are going to be lay-along mooring to reduce the encroachment into the area.”
Tucker told his fellow council members that he believed the club had performed its due diligence by scaling drawings back and addressing staff concerns. He lobbed some criticism at Olmsted for presenting an opinion to the council that was clearly contrary to the vote taken by the Planning Board.
“I don’t appreciate it and I haven’t appreciated in the past that they have advocated a decision,” he said. “The Planning Board had I don’t know how many hearings on this, and passed it five to one.”
Despite an audience of more than 100 residents, only one got up to speak about the request during public comment. He was a member of the yacht club and spoke favorably about the proposal.
Marco Island Yacht Club Vice Chair Rudi Landwaard said after the plan passed that he was “elated.” In the days before the proposal went before council, he related his hopes that the discussion over the plan would be robust and that all the members would carefully consider the request.
“City Council did exactly that,” he said.