MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island restaurant owners say they want a level playing field when it comes to permitted seat and parking space numbers. How best to create that level playing field will be up to City Council Monday.
In addition to the number of parking spaces Island restaurants must provide for their guests, council will be considering possible amendments to the land development code concerning planting and trimming of trees.
After the invocation by Rev. Bill Beebe and the Pledge of Allegiance led by Russ Columbo, the councilors get to start off with a couple of other feel good items: Presentation of the Employee of the Month award to Fire Marshal Ray Munyon, and recognition of the Lely High School boys’ basketball team, which won the district championship and advanced to the Elite Eight in Florida. Seven of the team leaders live on Marco Island and have been playing basketball together since grade school.
Consent agenda items include approving maintenance agreements obligating the city to provide ongoing maintenance for improvements and landscaping installed as part of expanding the Jolley Bridge, and authorizing the city manager to apply for a grant for navigational lighting on the bridge.
Council will discuss awarding the contract for studying the Island’s electrical provider and rates.
Also councilors will deal with a request for reduction of code enforcement fines for a bank-owned property located at 1258 Mulberry Court.
A proposed ordinance providing authority for the code enforcement board to reduce fines rather than council will be considered on a first reading, along with a proposed amendment to the land development code to establish a tree ordinance.
The restaurant parking question, which has divided local restaurant owners into two camps, the free-standing facilities and those within shopping centers, encompasses three separate issues, said City Manager Steve Thompson.
The first concern is specific to the Marco Walk shopping center. Developers requested additional restaurant space for Ristorante Da Vinci, said Community Development Director Steve Olmsted, and were required to conduct a study of parking and traffic patterns, and build a new elevator. The city has asked for revisions to the proposed expansion plans.
Olmsted said that he does not know when the elevator at Marco Walk will be completed, and developer Leon Agambi of Venetian Investments could not be reached for comment.
The second facet of the restaurant parking question will tackle the question of what constitutes a restaurant. City staff has taken the position that an establishment such as Beebe’s, an icecream saloon, at Marco Walk should be treated more like a retailer for the purposes of determining parking requirements, said Thompson.
In the third phase of the parking debate, the council will consider how much parking should be required for restaurant, and what type of formula should be used to determine the requirement.
Prior to 2004, one space was mandated for every two seats in a free-standing restaurant. That year, the requirement was lowered to one space for every three seats and in 2006 was lowered again to one space for every four seats.
Council will consider whether to keep the ordinance as is, change the formula again, or go to a calculation tying parking to square footage of floor space. How these requirements are determined, and perceived inequities in how different restaurants are treated, is what gets restaurateurs steamed.
Eric Phillips, owner of Nacho Mama’s in Marco Walk, said he wanted a level playing field.
“We’re only allowed 120 outside chairs here for all the restaurants at Marco Walk. I had to pull seats out. The rules should be the same for everybody. How does Joey’s Pizza have a full liquor license, 150 seats, and uses a back alley for a parking lot?” Phillips asked rhetorically.
Joe Oliverio, owner of Joey’s Pizza and president of the Marco Island Restaurant Association, said his parking is adequate, that he has a lease for cross-parking registered with the city and the county.
“Look at all the outdoor seating they have at the Esplanade. They must have 500 seats there and they don’t have any extra parking. We’re the only people who have to be accountable for every seat.”
Like Phillips, he said all he wants is “a level playing field.”
“ ... And then I’ll compete with anybody. Count the free-standing restaurants on a square footage basis, like the shopping center restaurants, and we’ll accept one space for every 200 feet, instead of 250.”
Asked if he thinks the votes are there in the City Council to adopt this ruling, Oliverio said he had no idea.
After Monday’s meeting, which begins 5:30 p.m., Monday, in the community room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive, the next council meeting will be a work session scheduled May 18.