MARCO ISLAND — It’s obvious many Marco Island residents see vegetation in their cul-de-sacs as an extension of their landscaping.
That was one conclusion by Marco Island’s Beautification Advisory Committee during a report to City Council at its Tuesday workshop.
After an extensive inventory in late 2010 of the island’s 302 cul-de-sacs, the advisory committee presented council with recommendations to improve the safety and overall appearance of the island’s signature turnarounds. While many cul-de-sacs appeared privately manicured and maintained, others were overgrown or unsightly.
The advisory committee found 100 such overgrown areas, and in some cases, vegetation blocked a line of sight around them making them unsafe for pedestrians and drivers. Some problem cul-de-sacs contained taller vegetation that could interfere with power lines and city utilities.
“There’s a lot of hands-on ownership of these cul-de-sacs,” said Bryan Milk, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department that oversees the advisory committee. “We want to promote that ownership but also cut vegetation to safety standards.”
Council felt some work, such as removing vegetation that poses a threat to power supplies, required immediate attention. In January, the advisory committee met with Lee County Electric Company and discussed trimming in affected areas.
On Tuesday, representatives from LCEC explained that it trims vegetation around power lines during routine maintenance on a 6-year cycle for single-phase power lines and a 3-year cycle for its three-phase distribution systems. The utility agreed to accelerate its program on Marco Island to take away any danger by encroaching vegetation to the island’s power supply.
Their work would be completed at no cost to the city.
Roots threatening the city’s underground utilities raised additional concerns. Removal of offending vegetation appeared to be the answer, but council also wanted to remain sensitive to residents who have maintained it.
“Residents need to be educated for their own protection,” said Sydney Mellinger, chairwoman of the advisory committee. “Leaving trees will cost a lot of money (in damages) when the roots grow.”
The advisory committee recommended removing trees where roots could interrupt city utilities. Milk suggested leveling the trees and treating the remaining stumps with a liquid substance to inhibit regeneration.
Jennifer Portu, who lives adjacent to a cul-de-sac on Ludlam Court, said she had been landscaping the area on her own. She was concerned about the substance used to kill tree roots and its effect on children playing around it.
The advisory committee hesitated to call the treatment a poison and assured council the substance would not affect surrounding vegetation or future reintroduction of vegetation.
Portu also learned for the first time that a city permit was required to privately maintain the cul-de-sac.
Three options were presented to city council for long-term maintenance of cul-de-sacs.
The first would clean up and rock the 100 most overgrown offenders at a cost of $18,500 for the first year. The second would include the first option plus a replanting program for the biggest offenders at a cost of $28,500 in the first year.
The third option addressed renovating, replanting and maintaining all 302 cul-de-sacs at a first year cost of $44,200.
The recurring cost for annual maintenance of all cul-de-sacs would be $15,700 annually. That amount includes trimming palms and bushes, spraying herbicide, fertilizing palms and plants, minor grading and debris haul-away.
Councilors recommended the 2012 budget committee review the study and make recommendations for future consideration.
Mellinger hoped the city would see fit to fund the upkeep of cul-de-sacs in the same manner as it maintains its medians.
“We need the money to maintain our beautiful cul-de-sacs,” she said. After all, she noted, they are the medians of our streets, too.