MARCO ISLAND — Seawalls, density credits and more stringent fertilizer regulations were three of the items debated by City Council members at their regular meeting on Monday night.
In effort to spur development, council members gave final approval to a plan to transfer waterfront commercial density credits to any commercial property within the city’s Midtown District. A maximum of 200 credits could be transferred from one waterfront area to another area within the Midtown District to allow for one to two limited-use hotels with no more than 150 rooms. Planning officials reason that new hotels could stimulate re-development in the district and create a pedestrian friendly environment while ensuring that any development plans gain council approval before being built.
Chuck Kiester, one of two council members who opposed the plan, cited concerns about how additional competition will impact existing businesses. He also doesn’t believe that taking a chance on inspiring investors is worth what he called a “zone it and they will come” gamble.
Council chairman Jerry Gibson was adamant that transferring density credits is not the same as re-zoning and that the move is a “baby step” towards expanding density credits.
Bud Balsom, a broker for Peak Realty, which represents a local development group that has spent two years researching the possibility of building a limited service hotel in the Midtown District, welcomed the 5-2 vote. Balsom claims that Marco lacks this type of hotel, which could cater to not only tourists, but families of seasonal residents who cannot afford the cost of staying in a large, chain hotel.
Meanwhile, Bill Waichulis, senior vice president of operations for Boykin Management Company, which owned the Radisson Hotel on the Island before selling it to Marriott told council members that large hotels chains cannot get funding to build the kind of hotels that the city hopes to attract, and predicted that the ordinance will actually discourage development.
During the public comment, a representative of the Marco Island Civic Association also told councilors that its query of residents found that 80 percent opposed density transfers.
Increased fertilizer regulations voted down
A plan to urge the Collier Board of County Commissioners to adopt a fertilizer ordinance more stringent than the current minimum requirements set by state law did not get the support of council members, which failed to pass the regulation by a 4-3 vote.
More forceful requirements suggested included a four-month fertilizer use black out period, regulating chemical use to within three feet of water when there is no shield to keep the chemicals from leaching into waterways and even regulating the point-of-sale of fertilizers.
“I think its important for us to send a message that this is important to use,” said Councilor William Trotter.
Chairman Jerry Trotter added that the ordinance passed would be more of a symbolic gesture than anything else.
“It’s incumbent upon us to protect the water,” he said.
But council member Frank Recker testily told his fellow councilors that they should wait for Collier County to make a decision before attempting to enact a stiffer ordinance.
“This is a perfect example of government intrusion,” Recker stated, added in his mind the regulation is nothing more than “feel good, hug-a-tree (legislation).”
Seawall amendment passes first reading
An ordinance to amend the building code regarding seawalls passed its first hurdle. Councilmen unanimously approved the first reading of a plan to allow for new seawalls to be placed in front of old ones where whalers are retained as part of the design renovation.
The change comes from an appeal regarding Tropical Isle Condominiums, which prohibited a design that included seawall in front of a seawall because the outside face of the new structure would exceed 12 inches. However, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has extended its regulation from 12 inches to 18 inches, making the new structure compliant.
In addition to updating the code to comply with what has been set by DEP, the ordinance puts the burden on a property owner’s engineer if a seawall fails or collapses. If and when that happens, an owner will have 60 days to contract a licensed marine contractor to get a permit and make repairs. A design professional will certify the design and inspect the structure, which is current practice. Then, a final inspection would be performed by the Building Department.
The ordinance will receive a second hearing and vote at an upcoming council meeting before being enacted.