MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island’s Planning Board finally got a majority for a recommendation on parking at Joey’s Pizza, but the proposed requirement for new or renovated businesses to pay for works of art kept the members from blending harmoniously.
The Planning Board met Friday morning in the community room, with Chairman Brian Moss and member Bill Sneddon absent. The five members present heard from restaurant owner Joe Oliverio and Thilo Bayer, part owner of the Collier Building next door to Joey’s Pizza and president of the Collier Building Condo Association.
“I’m losing customers,” lamented Oliverio. “People continually walk away from my business. They have nowhere to wait for a table.”
Bayer has agreed to lease Oliverio parking spaces at the Collier Building, allowing Joey’s to add 28 outdoor seats.
“We close at 10, but sometimes we stay open to take care of people who can’t get served. If we get extra seats, I might be able to close sooner, ’cause people are waiting.”
City planner Kris Van Lengen said staff was in favor of granting the request, with the stipulation that the leased spaces be turned over to the pizzeria only after 5 p.m. each day. Board member Monte Lazarus, stating “this type of regulation is absurd,” agreed to forward the recommendation, but said he will write a separate concurrence for the City Council expressing his concerns.
With vice chairman Jim Riviere casting the deciding vote, the board agreed to support Oliverio’s petition by a 3-2 margin.
When the issue of requiring some business owners to fund public art when they build or renovate commercial buildings came up, city clerk Laura Litzan presented the case for the proposal, in her capacity as staff liaison to the Arts Board.
Planning Board member Vincent Magee took on the cause of championing private property rights, protesting that “we’re going to force a business owner to put a piece of art on his property he may or may not like. This is outrageous. You can contribute art, but it has to be approved by the City Council. If my definition of art isn’t Laura’s, then it doesn’t get approved.”
Tempers flared on the board over whether the money required would be a fee or a tax. Lazarus mentioned the public art “fee,” and Magee jumped in. “Tax, or fee?” he demanded.
“When you stop screaming at me, I’ll answer,” Lazarus replied.
“You haven’t heard me scream,” rebutted Magee, prompting moderator Riviere to ask the board members to please allow the presenter to proceed.
Two events would trigger the proposed ordinance, said board member Irv Povlow, construction of a new commercial building or a renovation costing 50 percent of the building’s worth. Community development director Steve Olmsted assured the board the money would constitute a fee, not a tax.
Riviere suggested the ordinance might be “fundamentally flawed,” being actually closer to another impact fee. Lazarus made a motion to table the discussion until the board’s next meeting, and look for alternatives to make the proposal more palatable to affected building owners.
Litzan concluded with a plea to keep the purpose of the arts measure in mind.
“We’ve forgotten why we’re here – the public value of the arts. Arts foster beauty … and are a powerful and dynamic economic force,” she said. “They help revitalize downtowns, attracting and retaining residents and commercial interests.”
The board passed the motion to continue the discussion, and moved on to the question of whether to allow stone and shell driveways. Longtime islander Bob Olson, having already spoken in favor of Joey’s expansion, made a second trip to the podium in his Looney Tunes necktie to speak for shell drives.
“Steve Olmsted’s attitude, that we should make this island another Beverly Hills, is borderline crazy,” he said.
The next meeting is scheduled Sept. 11. The Sept. 25 meeting was canceled and replaced with a workshop on Oct 2.