Planning Board questions legality of Marco Island CRA committee

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— Too big to fail? An advisory committee of 18 members is just plain overwhelming, said several Marco Island Planning Board members on Friday. Moreover, the number of members on the CRA advisory board is not legal, they said.

Marco Island City Council approved the 18-member Community Redevelopment Area ad hoc committee earlier this month, allowing all who expressed interest through their application to serve on the board.

“I just wonder why we would create an 18-member committee, which on its face is unwieldy and violates the city’s own ordinance,” said Planning Board member Monte Lazarus, citing a city ordinance that states that boards, committees and commissions are to consist of seven members or one appointee per council member.

Other Planning Board members agreed with Lazarus.

Planning Board member Vince Magee called a committee that large “unruly.”

“Monte (Lazarus) is right, the ordinance prevails,” agreed Planning Board member Irv Povlow.

The committee is to present recommendations to City Council on the controversial endeavor of creating a CRA to spruce up the approximate 250-acre Town Center business area, which surrounds the Town Center shopping mall.

While many businesses and the Greater Marco Island Chamber of Commerce are among the supporters of the CRA proposal, Magee said he is among the skeptics at this time.

“They’re going to have to prove to me a CRA is going to work here better than it has anywhere else,” Magee said, citing little improvements made within CRAs in areas such as Miami.

“I love the concept of it. The concept and the implementation, just doesn’t work,” he said.

Picking up a trash can from behind the dais, he added: “This could be the final resource for the CRA.”

After the meeting interim City Manager Jim Riviere said it will be easy to answer the legal question raised by Lazarus.

“It’s a simple solution. We’ll clean up the language in the ordinance to allow for committees of seven members or larger if council decides,” he said.

At times, city officials have struggled to get participation in city endeavors during the decision-making phases and wanted to encourage more of it.

“We had such a heart-warming response, why turn people away,” Riviere said.

The 18-member committee is expected to come to a fact-finding question and answer session at 9 a.m. on Friday, 51 Bald Eagle Drive, with a panel of experts to include Carol Westmoreland of the Florida Redevelopment Association, which supports CRAs; Lee Willer Specter, the CRA administrator in Naples; attorney Alan Gabriel of the Weiss-Serota law firm, which represents the city of Marco Island, and city consultant Marty Black of Kimley-Horn and Associates

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Comments » 4

MarcoCitizen writes:

We need a CRA like we need another useless Gipsy Tent City on the Glon property now called Veteran's Park. Forget the CRA and sell that property, reduce our debt and taxes and reduce staff on our 'Planing Board".

ajm3s writes:

I have to agree, an 18 member advisory committee may be "unruly", but that is why we have a chairman. I understood that the advisory committee was to provide as much information to the Council. A committee of larger size may provide more ideas by virtue of its numbers; this may be challenging by design. But I believe that is a good thing, because consider the numbers of people not on the advisory board who will be impacted by a 250 acre redevelopment zone. I suspect it will be more than 18 people and perhaps more diverse.

Property owners within the redevelopment zone may have differing ideas with regards to the benefits or implementation of a CRA, but I will withhold judgement as to considering them "unruly". And if so, does it matter, if the result of the discussions lead to good solutions/proposals/implementation/suggestions

Recommendation: If the ordinance does not allow for larger committees, than let us amend if the process allows or redifine this group as a fact-finding or discovery board.

I would love the discussion to be lively, informed and diverse to mirror all the concerns of this island.

In the end, the CRA governing board will be within the construct of the city ordinances, if they elect to move forward.

As I have stated in previous comments relative to the CRA, we need to be more inclusive and also radical in our approach to reviewing ideas which lead to a successful development plan for Marco Island.

Also, I have confidence, the Chairman will advise if this is not working and make adjustments or redirect the members.

Historically, were 56 appointed delegates in the First Continental Congress too large to discuss the Intolerable Acts established by the British Parliament? What is too large?

ChuckKiester writes:

As a point of information to those who may have missed the city council meeting at which the action took place. I will skip over the positives for having a committee this large as they have already been well-stated. I will also not address those of you who have questioned the legality of having a committee larger than 7 members except to point out that we previously had a ad hoc rental housing committee of 12, and currently have a utility committee of only 5. Perhaps the ordinance limitations do not apply to "ad hoc" committees. What I do wish to address is the primary purpose of the ad hoc CRA committee from my point of view which is simply to develop a recommendation to the city council listing the pros/cons as to whether the city should move forward with a CRA at this time, if ever. This large committee is not repeat not the official committee developed pursuant to state statutes which, at this time after first reading of the ordinance creating the CRA is the 7-member city council. Given the number of concerns by some of our residents and knowing that the establishment of the CRA will only work with the support of the community, especially of those who have residences or have businesses within the proposed boundary. It is far from a done deal. If the decision is made to go forward, the plan board must be included as an integral part of its operations or, perhaps, as the officially designated CRA board of 7 members. While I believe that certain decisions must ultimately be made by the city council, I have no desire to be intimately involved in day-to-day operations of such an entity. Chuck Kiester

ajm3s writes:

in response to ChuckKiester:

As a point of information to those who may have missed the city council meeting at which the action took place. I will skip over the positives for having a committee this large as they have already been well-stated. I will also not address those of you who have questioned the legality of having a committee larger than 7 members except to point out that we previously had a ad hoc rental housing committee of 12, and currently have a utility committee of only 5. Perhaps the ordinance limitations do not apply to "ad hoc" committees. What I do wish to address is the primary purpose of the ad hoc CRA committee from my point of view which is simply to develop a recommendation to the city council listing the pros/cons as to whether the city should move forward with a CRA at this time, if ever. This large committee is not repeat not the official committee developed pursuant to state statutes which, at this time after first reading of the ordinance creating the CRA is the 7-member city council. Given the number of concerns by some of our residents and knowing that the establishment of the CRA will only work with the support of the community, especially of those who have residences or have businesses within the proposed boundary. It is far from a done deal. If the decision is made to go forward, the plan board must be included as an integral part of its operations or, perhaps, as the officially designated CRA board of 7 members. While I believe that certain decisions must ultimately be made by the city council, I have no desire to be intimately involved in day-to-day operations of such an entity. Chuck Kiester

Excellent recap of the city council meeting which discussed the creation of this interim "ad-hoc" committee.

The process moves on.

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