MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island residents will soon be able to use the World Wide Web to comment on the city’s comprehensive plan, which outlines the island’s future growth and priorities.
In just a matter of weeks, the city’s planning board will roll out sections of the plan on the city’s website using a software program created by the University of Central Florida. Planning board officials in Charlotte County donated the program to Marco Island at no cost. Councilman Wayne Waldack urged the city to investigate the idea after seeing a demonstration at a statewide conference for city leaders.
This isn’t the first time city officials have solicited citizen opinions online. A December, 2010 online questionnaire regarding the comprehensive plan netted “four times the response we get at a public meeting,” said planning director Kris Van Lengen, who added that the online forum will not replace the need for public meetings on the comprehensive plan.
Although there is no time table, individual elements of the entire comprehensive plan will be rolled out separately as a way to focus the discussion. Citizens will be able to comment on all the elements except those mandated by the state. Before joining the online conversation, citizens will have to register using their full name or the community organization they represent; no anonymous users will be allowed.
“To me, the most valuable discussion is when someone shows up with their full name,” Van Lengen told Planning Board members who watched a demonstration of the software at a meeting on Friday. Van Lengen added that users will get to see other users’ comments as well, fostering discussion. City staff will review comments before posting online for language and appropriate. Staff members will also be able to post answers to questions in the forum, although not all comments will receive a personal reply.
“It opens up people’s ability to communicate all year long,” noted Planning Board member David Caruso, who added that seasonal resident can now make their opinions known regardless of where they are. The city will able be able to seek guidance from citizens on what items that are missing from the comprehensive plan, but of importance to residents.
“Anyway we can get input from the public helps us be as transparent as possible, “said Waldack. “We want as many opinions as possible.”
Marco Island’s Planning Board members unanimously elected former city councilman Richard Shanahan as chairman, replacing David Caruso. Jack Patterson was elected to be co-chair at the regularly scheduled meeting of the board on Friday.
“I’m privileged to serve,” said Shanahan. “I hope I can serve as well as previous chairs.”