Key Marco feud still simmers for city, Conservancy as group seeks landscaping permit

Key Marco Community Association recently submitted to the city an application for a near-carte blanche landscaping permit on Key Marco, which was developed by Ronto and which also is known as Horr’s Island.

Marco Island City Manager Jim Riviere

Photo by KELLY FARRELL, Staff

Marco Island City Manager Jim Riviere

“The relationship was a Hatfield-McCoy feud when I got here,” new City Manager Jim Riviere said.

— Conservancy of Southwest Florida and Marco Island officials haven’t yet buried the hatchet over how to best protect Key Marco’s Indian burial site and native habitat preserves.

The two agencies have battled over whether to settle with the Key Marco Community Association after city code officials in May 2009 found there were egregious violations by the association and its landscaper, Greensward of Marco, at the archaeological and environmentally sensitive sites.

The Conservancy, which was a primary source of information in the code case against Key Marco, wasn’t invited to participate in the settlement negotiations earlier this year — something that didn’t set well with Conservancy leaders.

“The relationship was a Hatfield-McCoy feud when I got here,” said new City Manager Jim Riviere, referring to the famous war of two families.

It may get worse, some city and Conservancy officials are warning.

“There’s not a rift between us ... well, not yet,” Councilman Wayne Waldack said.

Key Marco Community Association recently submitted to the city an application for a near-carte blanche landscaping permit on Key Marco, which was developed by Ronto and which also is known as Horr’s Island.

If Riviere approves the permit application, then local government agencies may have another problem on their hands, Waldack said.

Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s manager of government relations, Nicole Ryan, concurred.

Riviere said he isn’t sure yet how he will handle the permit application.

“My objective is to simplify life and streamline government,” he said.

Following the settlement, the three agencies agreed to enter what Marco council Chairman Frank Recker described as “a new era of trust.”

That new era doesn’t look to be dawning.

The Conservancy has worked with the city for years because many of Key Marco’s conservation restrictions are consistent and interdependent with city code, Ryan said.

Key Marco owns part of the 500-plus acres on Horr’s Island along San Marco Road between Goodland and Marco Island. The association earned the right to develop the community through the conservation easement, which restricts the ability to disturb native plants and habitats.

The city’s responsibilities are enforcing its codes and plat; the Conservancy’s authority is over a conservation easement, Ryan said.

Nicole Ryan of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida supports the city in their action against Key Marco Community Association and Greensward at Marco's code board hearing May 6, 2009. She was particularly concerned about damage found to the ground cover, mid-story and canopy she saw at Key Marco April 3.

Photo by KELLY FARRELL, Staff

Nicole Ryan of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida supports the city in their action against Key Marco Community Association and Greensward at Marco's code board hearing May 6, 2009. She was particularly concerned about damage found to the ground cover, mid-story and canopy she saw at Key Marco April 3.

“The city, by doing their job, is protecting our conservation easement,” said Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s manager of government relations, Nicole Ryan.

“The city, by doing their job, is protecting our conservation easement,” she said.

That may no longer be the case.

“I think they (the Conservancy) should be directly responsible to tell people what they ought to do,” Riviere said.

The Conservancy, city and Key Marco officials planned to meet Aug. 31 to address how to proceed with each other and review landscape plans.

“It was to see how we work together to protect shared resources ... to enter the new era of collaboration and trust,” Ryan said.

Key Marco officials declined to attend and Riviere left the meeting abruptly, attendees said.

“He declined to share anything with us and stormed out,” said Andrew McElwaine, president of the Conservancy.

“When he left, Wayne Waldack’s eyes were like saucers,” Ryan said.

Waldack said he is concerned with Riviere considering approval of a permit that could allow the Key Marco Association to remove almost any vegetation from anywhere on Horr’s Island.

Riviere said that’s not his intent, adding that he’s not an environmental expert.

However, Key Marco doesn’t have authority over all the land described in the application, Ryan said.

Conservancy officials, who received the permit application through a public record’s request, are hoping Riviere will consider their concerns and require Key Marco to amend the permit before approving it.

Riviere said he would like Conservancy leaders to put their desires in writing. From there, he thinks it will “fall together organically.”

Frank Recker

File

Frank Recker

“I think at some point you’ve got to turn the page and say: ‘OK, you’ve got a clean page here,” Marco council Chairman Frank Recker said of forgiving Key Marco for alleged past violations.

Key Marco should be given more latitude, much like the Hideaway Beach development, which has a permit that renews annually and doesn’t require city monitoring, Recker said.

Collier County government approved Hideaway’s permit, however, before the city was incorporated, Ryan noted.

“I think at some point you’ve got to turn the page and say: ‘OK, you’ve got a clean page here,” Recker said of forgiving Key Marco for alleged past violations.

Taking the Conservancy’s position isn’t in the best interest of the city’s and Key Marco’s collaborative spirit, Recker said.

“It couldn’t get more strained,” Riviere said of the relationship between the organizations. “I’m not going to perpetuate a feud.”

Although Riviere said he is seeking to keep things simple by not overregulating, Ryan said that won’t work.

“There is no room for discretion in city code,” she said.

The Conservancy’s only mechanism for protecting the land without city cooperation is through a lawsuit.

“God bless them, if they’ve got rights they can enforce, go for it,” Recker said.

At least one of the three parties is pleased.

“We’re enjoying the mutual trust that has developed as a result of the settlement agreement,” Key Marco Association President Gerry Tsandoulas said. “... Especially the change in leadership at City Hall,” he said, referring to Riviere.

Riviere took over the permanent position as city manager this summer after terminating the community development director and chief of code enforcement.

“We’re not going away. We still have a job out there to do,” Ryan said.

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Comments » 6

GorgonZola writes:

What does it take to avoid paying fines? Money? Influence? Friends in the 'right' place? Seems to us that a law (or two) was broken, some City ordinances ignored, and Key Marco wants to walk away with a clean record. Why would the City allow that? Nothing like using the City for its own purposes and utilities when it suits them but not participating in respect for its government. You'd think those who choose to live in a semi-wilderness environment would appreciate it and not attempt to turn in into a boring, manicured suburb. The reckless ravishing of the native plants was apparently deemed irreparable and irreplaceable: how can you replace hundreds of years of history that you have destroyed? The Conservancy is a wonderful steward of public lands - why would their opinions be ignored? Carte blanche is not allowed in any other part of the City -- why should Key Marco be allowed to do this? When Capt. Horr's Island aka Key Marco was first developed, longtime historians here will recall the hoops the developers had to jump through in order to satisfy various environmental entities such as the Smithsonian, Army Corps of Engineers, and a whole string of others just to get permission to build their bridge. The place never really got off the ground as a successful community, possibly because of poor marketing strategies. Do the current inhabitants and property owners think that by tearing out trees and vegetation they will increase the real value of lots and attract more buyers? Obviously Mr. Riviere is not, as he confesses, an 'environmental expert' - but the City already has one of those and I wonder why her opinion is not quoted here.
Key Marco should not be considered equal to Hideaway Beach - they are quite different in our opinion.
We believe the City's code board agonized for years to come to a fair and equitable decision regarding Key Marco -- and now, as with many other decisions made by its boards, the city stomps all over it - what a waste of time and energy - and what a show of disrespect for hardworking volunteers led to believe their decisions matter. Foolishness to state the Conservancy's position is not in the best interest of the City: at least they are trying to protect what little natural beauty remains around here without turning another residential plan into a commercial eyesore. We doubt that ALL residents of Key Marco agree with ignoring the Conservancy: an organization that always steps up when needed, with an intelligent and educated spokesperson like Nicole Ryan should not be ignored in this way. She has nothing to gain personally and is looking out for the City's best interests. Welcome to the dictatorship.

JohninMarco writes:

in response to GorgonZola:

What does it take to avoid paying fines? Money? Influence? Friends in the 'right' place? Seems to us that a law (or two) was broken, some City ordinances ignored, and Key Marco wants to walk away with a clean record. Why would the City allow that? Nothing like using the City for its own purposes and utilities when it suits them but not participating in respect for its government. You'd think those who choose to live in a semi-wilderness environment would appreciate it and not attempt to turn in into a boring, manicured suburb. The reckless ravishing of the native plants was apparently deemed irreparable and irreplaceable: how can you replace hundreds of years of history that you have destroyed? The Conservancy is a wonderful steward of public lands - why would their opinions be ignored? Carte blanche is not allowed in any other part of the City -- why should Key Marco be allowed to do this? When Capt. Horr's Island aka Key Marco was first developed, longtime historians here will recall the hoops the developers had to jump through in order to satisfy various environmental entities such as the Smithsonian, Army Corps of Engineers, and a whole string of others just to get permission to build their bridge. The place never really got off the ground as a successful community, possibly because of poor marketing strategies. Do the current inhabitants and property owners think that by tearing out trees and vegetation they will increase the real value of lots and attract more buyers? Obviously Mr. Riviere is not, as he confesses, an 'environmental expert' - but the City already has one of those and I wonder why her opinion is not quoted here.
Key Marco should not be considered equal to Hideaway Beach - they are quite different in our opinion.
We believe the City's code board agonized for years to come to a fair and equitable decision regarding Key Marco -- and now, as with many other decisions made by its boards, the city stomps all over it - what a waste of time and energy - and what a show of disrespect for hardworking volunteers led to believe their decisions matter. Foolishness to state the Conservancy's position is not in the best interest of the City: at least they are trying to protect what little natural beauty remains around here without turning another residential plan into a commercial eyesore. We doubt that ALL residents of Key Marco agree with ignoring the Conservancy: an organization that always steps up when needed, with an intelligent and educated spokesperson like Nicole Ryan should not be ignored in this way. She has nothing to gain personally and is looking out for the City's best interests. Welcome to the dictatorship.

Your hold statement is over PUBLIC land. Key Marco is not. The Conservancy made fools of themselve in court, but you leave that out. And most of all, if Wayne Waldwack supports it, AKA the village idot, that says it all. Spend your money not taxpayers money on this.We are laying off employees over this sillyness.

OldMarcoMan writes:

Open your Eyes 'JohnIn', they USE Wayne as a beard. Its Recker that's the REAL puppet master.
Wayne doesn't have secret meetings or closed door conversations with other Councilmen.
You can't have it both ways John, Wayne is either an idiot or a master mind, he can't be both.

JohninMarco writes:

in response to OldMarcoMan:

Open your Eyes 'JohnIn', they USE Wayne as a beard. Its Recker that's the REAL puppet master.
Wayne doesn't have secret meetings or closed door conversations with other Councilmen.
You can't have it both ways John, Wayne is either an idiot or a master mind, he can't be both.

My eyes are open. Don't have a dog in the fight but watched as the conservancy spent many thousands of city dollars on court costs. Why didn't the conservancy spend their money? Why does Wayne want to spend more considering that he does not even pay taxes.

ajm3s writes:

If we are all concerned about native species, I believe it not about the species itself, but how we manicure the species.

I love the Conservancy, but are they residents of Marco Island and/or Key Marco? And do they represent us?

Let's see who will cast the vote? And for those who wish to engage in a little light reading, you should read the city ordinances with regard to landscaping on this fine barrier island.

If the Conservancy was fair across the board, I would like it to comment on the "required" number of trees for developed house lots in a natural environment on a developed barrier island. If this doesn't make your head spin, nothing will.

Please read, you will be amazed at how far away from natural Marco Island is from a barrier island ecosystem. But hey, we are humans and if you elect folks to represent us, you will get human notions of "natural" landscapes.

GorgonZola writes:

Here's a little LIGHT and INFORMATIVE reading for you ajm3s -- see if you can peruse and understand the Key Marco PUD, the City's Vegetation Ordinance - (NOT the Landscape Ordinance) and if that is too light for your reading and super intellectual pleasure we suggest you study the Deltona Settlement Agreement. Go and check the membership of the Conservancy and you'll find many Conservancy members just happen to live on Marco Island.

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