No one is sure what’s going on with city plans to designate a Community Redevelopment Area for Marco Island’s Town Center.
It was the one thing city councilors and public speakers agreed on while debating the issue at Monday night’s City Council meeting.
More information is needed, suggested Councilor Larry Magel.
He immediately moved to defer until June 1 action on the second reading of an ordinance establishing the redevelopment area. Hoping to shed greater light on the process, he added a number of interim criteria to the motion.
The designation of the Town Center redevelopment zone and the establishment of a CRA board are next steps in a process stemming from the city’s Finding of Necessity. The ordinance’s first reading passed on March 15.
“We don’t have enough data to know what we’re doing for infrastructure and financial costs,” Magel said. He questioned how CRA costs related to the general fund and how infrastructure improvements would affect local businesses.
Councilor Joe Batte agreed with Magel adding his concern that council was not aware of how business owners in the impacted area felt.
“I hate to see a good idea dragged down by lack of support,” Batte said. “I haven’t gotten a good feeling for it. Let’s not approve it and then start educating (the public).”
Councilor Trotter said approval of the ordinance made sense because it would create a board that could provide answers to the questions council was asking.
But Councilor Chuck Kiester suggested some of the questions could be answered by establishing a committee of business people and residents from the proposed redevelopment area without immediately approving the ordinance.
Councilor Jerry Gibson felt delay was unnecessary, citing that Collier County would supply $50 million to the project if the ordinance were adopted.
Before voting on Magel’s motion, council invited public discussion.
Keith Pershing, owner of Island Automotive, said he was neither for nor against the establishment of a CRA.
“We need to crunch the numbers to see how it will affect business owners,” he said.
Pershing was concerned that those in the affected area have received little communication on the ordinance and suggested the city develop an email list of affected business and residents so information would go out to everyone at once.
Resident Bob Brown agreed with Pershing that little is understood on redevelopment plans.
“This is too much for everyone to grasp,” he said. “We have no clue where this is really going to go.”
Kathy Gorman of Gorman’s Automotive Service asked council to slow down and find out what businesses want. To support moving the ordinance forward, Marco resident Lee Willer-Spector spoke on her experiences working for the past two years with Naples’ CRA.
“The project would enrich the taxpayers,” she said of Marco’s ordinance.
“But a good plan is critical,” she admitted.
Statistically, she said, Naples’ redevelopment area was enjoying a 350-percent increase in assessed values and a near-zero vacancy rate.
Magel’s motion to defer action failed on a 4-3 vote, and council continued to work on its resolution.
Vip Grover, president of the Marco Island Chamber of Commerce expressed hope for Town Center’s redevelopment.
“In order to take the next step, council needs to do something,” he said. “If we don’t pass it (the ordinance), it stops. Make a decision to go forward and make a plan that works.”
Grover argued that the CRA is simply a funding mechanism allowing the city to get funds from other sources. He felt, that after passage of the ordinance, the newly-formed advisory board could create by-laws that addressed citizen concerns.
Magel’s original motion was then separated into two up-or-down votes.
Councilor Kiester moved delaying the vote on second reading until June 1. That motion carried with a 4-3 majority.
Councilor Gibson then moved to create an ad hoc committee (for public input) of seven business and property owners in the proposed CRA with the committee being established by the first council meeting in May. That motion passed unanimously.
Interested parties wishing to serve on the ad hoc committee should contact the City of Marco Island, 50 Bald Eagle Drive, Marco Island, FL 34145 or call (239) 389-5000 for more information.