Finances, parking predicament among council review items Monday

Council to look at whether Island restaurants can operate with less restrictive parking space requirements

— Financial planning and 2010 property taxes is the first item for discussion at two City Council meetings Monday beginning 2:30 p.m. Also on the workshop agenda is a discussion on restaurant parking, which some business owners say is currently too restrictive.

Beginning 5:30 p.m., council will be finalizing approval of the dog runs at Mackle Park with the second reading of an ordinance to allow for off-leash dogs in designated areas.

Other evening agenda items include a request to reduce code fines for a bank-owned property on Dogwood Court, a review of events at the Esplanade and their affect on nearby residents, a request by Marriott Ownership Resorts to delay construction at Crystal Shores due to economic and real estate declines and possible regulations on applying fertilizer.

The extension for Crystal Shores development also includes a request for a four-year delay in constructing beach access.

At a Planning Board meeting in March, Parks and Recreation Director Bryan Milk expressed disappointment in delaying construction of the public beach access, which the Island currently lacks.

City Council Chairman Rob Popoff asked in late 2008 for the current restaurant parking codes and their affects to be brought forward for discussion.

“The parking restraints are ridiculous ... parking codes aren’t being enforced, nor should they, nor could they,” said Popoff.

Joe Oliverio of the Marco Island Restaurant Association and owner of Joey’s Pizza on Collier Boulevard agrees with Popoff’s take on the issue.

About two months ago, Oliverio said code enforcement officials came in, counted his chairs and removed four of them.

“That’s what really brought this to a head,” Oliverio said.

He feels that while the elevator requirement at Marco Walk went virtually ignored for four years and is still under construction, it’s unfair that he must follow all rules in a timely manner.

It is creating an “unlevel playing field” between restaurants in shopping centers and free standing restaurants, such as Joey’s pizza, Oliverio said.

He added that about seven restaurant owners have agreed that rather than making parking requirements based on seat numbers for free-standing restaurants, the ordinances should be less-restrictive and based on square footage, as they are for restaurants in shopping centers.

“We want a 1:200 square-foot ratio,” he said.

While that would still be more restrictive than shopping center restaurant parking to square footage ratios, he said it would be a reasonable compromise.

“I get a little frustrated when I play by the rules while others get away with murder,” Oliverio said.

He added that additional seats would actually improve parking conditions.

“It’s like a grocery store. If you have one register open and 10 cars in the parking lot, those 10 cars are going to be parked there longer than if you open additional registers. If you get people in, seated and served, that’s less time their car is parked in the lot,” Oliverio said.

“I hope council understands that this time,” he added.

“Review and discussion of current standards is a positive step in ensuring that the requirements continue to meet needs and demands of residents and businesses,” Community Development Director Steve Olmsted wrote in an e-mail to the Eagle on the issue.

One item not on the agenda that Islanders are eager to learn the resolve of, is the electric municipalization study.

When Popoff was told a study on electric utility takeover by the city wasn’t on the agenda, he said he believed it would be discussed. As for more specifics, he said: “No comment.”

The council workshop begins 2:30 p.m. and the "regular" council meeting begins 5:30 p.m. in the Community Room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.

View the full City Council agenda and background materials in the supporting documents sidebar to this story.

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