Guest Commentary: Where is Marco Island heading?

Let he who is not poorer in real estate valuation than he was five years ago cast the first stone in rebuttal. Marco Island has lost approximately 50 percent of its property value since the last real estate price peak.

Official disclaimer – I am a proud Realtor and have been for 20-years in this community. My purpose in writing this account is not pecuniary, but rather a call to action to preserve property values in Marco Island.

It appears that the real estate down-cycle is ending (barring catastrophic economic chaos) and we need to ensure that a healthy recovery will ensue. How do we do this?

One part has, or is being, accomplished - the daunting and oft scorned septic tank replacement program. Everyone associated with this has been sufficiently vilified, but it will add essential value to every property that was previously not on sewer service. It will provide homeowners and future home builders (there are still a significant number of vacant lots) many more options in the utilization of their property. And yes, it will provide some ecological benefits as well. Ergo – boost to everybody’s’ property values.

The beautification of the Island through the planting of trees and landscaping, and the expansion of bicycle paths will further enhance the Island and make it more desirable to future residents. Ergo – boost to everybody’s’ property values.

We are on the cusp of having a very high quality K-12 educational program on the Island. Tommie Barfield continues to thrive as a Grade A School. The Charter Middle School has demonstrated its ability to provide high quality cutting edge education. The emergence and future success of the Charter Academy will complete the desire to provide well rounded education at the highest level to our children at home. This may encourage younger couples to look favorably at our Community for their growing families. Ergo – boost to everybody’s’ property values.

Now comes the hard part. The part that many current residents are absolutely myopic about. The demographic of property buyers on Marco Island has shifted dramatically. We are now dealing with the “next generation”. There are approximately 78 million ‘boomers’, the largest demographic cohort in the history of the United States. The first wave of this cohort is now retiring and many have already made decisions about their retirement years and destination. During the next 10 years the age range of 55-64 will contain 75% of this cohort. These are our future real estate buyers. In addition the 45-55 age group will be looking to buy for their future. The hard part is providing a community that meets their needs – not ours. Ergo – boost to everybody’s property values.

In the recently released 2011 National Association of Realtors Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers one of the biggest factors influencing neighborhood choice was the quality of the neighborhood, cited by 67 percent of the respondent buyers. Other factors with relatively high responses include neighborhood design, 32 percent; convenience to shopping, 28 percent; quality of the school district, 27 percent; convenience to schools, 22 percent; and convenience to entertainment or leisure activities, 21 percent.

Marco Island already offers many of these ‘lifestyle’ options. However, we need to make sure that we work earnestly and with urgency towards the upgrading and modernization of our town center. We must make sure that we provide the leisure activity options that the next generation of Marco Island home owners will desire, not what we’ve become comfortable with. Ergo – boost to everybody’s property values.

Our world is being transformed, not simply changed. The rate of this transformation is going to become exponentially dramatic. We must accept that our future residents will desire a different ambiance and have different lifestyles. All this said, it does not mean that we need to step outside our comfort zone, but we must make provisions for this reality. After all, we are different than those who came before us.

I am normally not shy about stating my mind and sometimes championing controversial positions. However, dealing daily with prospective new residents I have learned that their expectations are different than what mine was when I came to Marco Island. Marco Island is a unique and precious place on Earth. But, we cannot be locked into a mold formed by pre-conceived ideas. The best way to deal with change is to be a part of it. Embrace the opportunity to look with open eyes and consider with an open mind some far reaching, possibly uncomfortable options. Some will demagogue this proposition as inconsistent with “community values”, what ever they are. We need to think radically to come up with the best alternatives to satisfy the desires of a younger group of future residents and to recover our lost property values.

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Comments » 10

Joe_Btfsplk writes:

With this kind of logic I could reach the moon with an extension ladder.

lauralbi1 writes:

Who wrote this ??

Ed Issler

ajm3s writes:

"Let he who is not poorer in real estate valuation than he was five years ago cast the first stone in rebuttal. Marco Island has lost approximately 50 percent of its property value since the last real estate price peak."

I shall cast the first stone, because I came to Marco Island after vacationing here, and I did not move here because of the changes but in fact, my belief that the Deltona plan was not obsolete.

However, I did realize an opportunity to spend my dollars to build a new home in a depressed market. I first bought a 1967 Deltona built home in 2000 for 219K, by 2006 it was valued at 990K without any changes. Demolished it and now live in a new home completed in 2008; triple in size with more amenities now valued at 660K in 2011.

So your argument, we should now accept change on this island because we all witnessed the bursting of a national housing market bubble? Help me understand.

And this is your basis for accepting changes going forward for Marco Island, including density transfer (increase density/mass zone changes in disguise). I suspect this is a slam dunk change you feel is good for this island.

Well my friendly realtor, you are very limited in defining your argument, because change for change sake and based on property valuations is .....................myopic at best.

For all changes are not equal in impact, in fact, some are detrimental depending on whether you are a homeowner, property investor, or commercial entity. I guess change is in the eye of the property owner.

Your qualifier to cast a stone, essentially, dismisses all the wasted infrastructure especially as it applies to waste water treatment overcapacity as well as safety services and management.

The only change I see is heightened debt and operational costs as a result of myopic visionaries like yourself, that claim property valuation as an indicator of community health. I guess, you believe bubbles are a good indicator of property values.

So let me cast the first stone, not based on property valuation but on quality and cost to the homeowner to maintain living here. There are some of us who do want to live and stay here, and operational costs are playing a larger role than property valuations. And who wants to pay higher taxes or fees on inflated property valuations as we saw in the early 2000's? The result: The folks that made out from your valuation perspective have left the island! They did not stay and we now pay witness to the reality that Marco Island is now listed as one of the highest taxed communities in Florida. Quite a distinction, for those that believe if its expensive it must be good. Especially as it applies to government services?

Really?

mrz333 writes:

I'm part of the "Boomer" generation. We’re in our middle to late 50's and purchased a house here in 2009 at auction to live here full time until we can no longer manage because of our age or finances. Our purchase was part of a long range phased plan for retirement which we implemented in 2004 having saved our entire lives in preparation for this time. Our means are modest compared to some on the island. I must admit that Marco was a destination by chance but, in being here, our love for it has grown.
To try to compare values to the insanity period of the mid 2000's is unrealistic. Better to take the values from 1995 and add to that the modest growth one would normally experience in a "non-fad" community. I think saying the values dropped 50% is not accurate given the circumstances of the market in the past 10 years.
I believe there is a wonderful lifestyle here that we all would wish to enhance. Some like it just the way it is and some would support building a resort casino here. I believe that our city would benefit from an increase in resort related "boutique" services with a few modest and well planned developments that would attract home buyers to our Island without diminishing its’ fundamental character.
Boomers have many, many choices on were to spend their retirement. I don't like seeing so many vacant houses and vacant land. Amenities suitable for a full time population must be planned to attract the boomers implemented as they arrive. This would be as simple (or as complex) as trying to get together and develop a plan that Realtors could use to attract new owners. It’s done all the time and has led to what some feel to be wonderful communities.
I would hate to see Marco wither from neglect. You must remember that many boomers have internet based occupations and will not be living a traditional retirement. We are an example of that. We continue to work not so much that we have to but because we love to. Our office is an easy chair, a laptop, a cell phone and an internet connection. We have any number of choices on where to live. With that freedom we can positively benefit a community that would seek to enhance that lifestyle by offering a modest variety of amenities suitable in size to a population in residence who seek an active lifestyle and to support a modest tourism trade. We feel this is of benefit to our community. Currently our opinion is that Marco, as beautiful as she is, is a little lacking in that area.
How else can we get our kids to visit us! Thanks to all for your attention!

ajm3s writes:

in response to mrz333:

I'm part of the "Boomer" generation. We’re in our middle to late 50's and purchased a house here in 2009 at auction to live here full time until we can no longer manage because of our age or finances. Our purchase was part of a long range phased plan for retirement which we implemented in 2004 having saved our entire lives in preparation for this time. Our means are modest compared to some on the island. I must admit that Marco was a destination by chance but, in being here, our love for it has grown.
To try to compare values to the insanity period of the mid 2000's is unrealistic. Better to take the values from 1995 and add to that the modest growth one would normally experience in a "non-fad" community. I think saying the values dropped 50% is not accurate given the circumstances of the market in the past 10 years.
I believe there is a wonderful lifestyle here that we all would wish to enhance. Some like it just the way it is and some would support building a resort casino here. I believe that our city would benefit from an increase in resort related "boutique" services with a few modest and well planned developments that would attract home buyers to our Island without diminishing its’ fundamental character.
Boomers have many, many choices on were to spend their retirement. I don't like seeing so many vacant houses and vacant land. Amenities suitable for a full time population must be planned to attract the boomers implemented as they arrive. This would be as simple (or as complex) as trying to get together and develop a plan that Realtors could use to attract new owners. It’s done all the time and has led to what some feel to be wonderful communities.
I would hate to see Marco wither from neglect. You must remember that many boomers have internet based occupations and will not be living a traditional retirement. We are an example of that. We continue to work not so much that we have to but because we love to. Our office is an easy chair, a laptop, a cell phone and an internet connection. We have any number of choices on where to live. With that freedom we can positively benefit a community that would seek to enhance that lifestyle by offering a modest variety of amenities suitable in size to a population in residence who seek an active lifestyle and to support a modest tourism trade. We feel this is of benefit to our community. Currently our opinion is that Marco, as beautiful as she is, is a little lacking in that area.
How else can we get our kids to visit us! Thanks to all for your attention!

There are a host of planned communities that span American history from New Haven, CT

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Have...

and Savanah GA

http://www.nps.gov/nr/twhp/wwwlps/les...

to those still considered under construction, such as, Ave Maria, FL.

Now ask yourself, when you discovered Marco Island, did you like what you saw and decided to buy here because you wanted a newer community or a larger community, or an investment for rental, or did you have a new vision for what Marco Island should become?

I liked what I saw in 1995 when I first crossed the bridge. Then, what began as a drive in 1997 to "manage" under cityhood, there was a move to "modernize" and promote high end development with all the amenities government could offer. Well time and history have a way of shaping communities; to now you lament the vacant lots and state this island is a "little lacking".

So again, why did you move here? And if you want to improve this island, improve your own lot and do not pretend as some city managers have in the past i.e.Moss leadership, that they know better.

What most city planners fail to recognize, is that better is not more, is not newer, is not a plan that redefines itself over and over again, under the mantra "because times have changed". This is the big fallacy of city planning. I suggest you read the history of Marco Island as a start because it a plan that has a master plan, but falls victim to "investors" pretending to be homeowners. Marco Island was from the onset, a plan to create a city with schools, churches, etc.

As a start you must first look within oneself and define yourself first, because from my perspective, there are many homeowners but they are driven by investment (which is not a bad thing) but in the process they forget to maintain and "water" the lawn. To today, they cannot afford to maintain and "water" the lawn. All under a plan to create an island with higher valuations.

I personally, just love the weather and water and surrounding mangroves, and it was here before planned improvements. Why do we have to plan to make everything so expensive and diminish what is free and all around us? Because the lot across the street is lacking? I think we have a maintenance problem, exacerbated by 5 year plans.

mrz333 writes:

Ajm3s: Might I suggest that you take a deep breath and step back from this issue. What we have here is a simple forum for opinion. With comments like: “So again, why did you move here? And if you want to improve this island, improve your own lot” you just offer an opinion of me, which I’m not sure I enjoy hearing, and not an opinion on an issue.

Now, this is my first post on this site and, as stated, I’m new to OUR community. This does not mean I accept a ‘pecking order’ in the validity of one’s opinion. I’m not a developer nor is my reason for being on this island one of pure investment. I used words like ‘modest’ repeatedly to express something which you obviously ignored. I would see ANY change to OUR community as an active community process. I highlight ‘OUR’ to simply remind you that residential owners on OUR island have but one vote in the process. Don’t believe that I’m naive enough not to ignore the forces within our community that exert considerable influence on issues to promote an agenda that is not necessarily in the interests of all involved.
Please do speak your mind on the related issue here. I, and many others, will welcome and consider it in the formulation of our own opinions. However, please consider that this is a community in which there will be varied opinions on a whole range of related subjects. Among reasonable people there is no need to feel that you need to add another step up to create a ‘bully pulpit’ for yourself. A simple soap box on the corner should do nicely!

ajm3s writes:

Welcome, to the fold.

But you felt that this island was "I believe there is a wonderful lifestyle here that we all would wish to enhance." And you then stated "I don't like seeing so many vacant houses and vacant land."

Since you have been here since 2004, you are not concerned about the costs associated with poor city management, like waste treatment overcapacity beyond what is required at 100% build out.

So from your perspective, more "enhancements" will serve to eliminate vacant homes and lots. Really, a bloated waste water and high cost water utility will go a long way to encourage "boomers" with a modest retirement income.

Are you serious? Have you been following the debt financial status of this city? And "boutique" with a vacant sign is just as ugly as a "7-11" with a vacant sign. Does over development or poor development have any meaning? There was a time that the city thought it was a good idea to build a solar generating plant. Really?

Pay attention to what is proposed on this island, you may have a lot of catching up? Just my opinion!

mrz333 writes:

Well again ajm3s reads without ‘reading’. Might I ask what makes you think I’m unconcerned with the city’s operating costs because I became an owner in ‘2009’? I think not!
Boutique style services and businesses, now-a-days, usually refer to a small and locally owned and operated business that may or may not have the outward appearance of a traditional street front business. I don’t think you’re grasping the concept, being defined as we speak, that the ideas of retirement and retirees are changing! With these changes comes a new set of standards and services one looks for in a community. Communities which offer a certain charm with modern infrastructure and amenities will be in the forefront. The natural ‘charm’ of Marco is evident. The integration of this ‘charm’ with a responsible development process is not. And, since there seems to be plenty of vacant land here for the having, you’d think that a ‘responsible’ plan for further development would already be in place.
Now, just for your information ajm3s and not in any way offering support for a plan I did not see, many large corporations and universities operate solar power generating stations. With current Federal Tax incentives, Grants and Regulations and required utility ‘buy-backs’ it has become very profitable to operate one. The plants offer reliable clean energy, reduced utility costs for their operators, and, an investment in the future. Wouldn’t just the possibility of cheaper electricity that could potentially power a desalinization plant for cheaper water be worth looking into? Universities have built these to fund, in part, their endowments instead of more risky market investments.
These are all just ideas and no one is opening their checkbooks! Marco has a unique opportunity to look at the future with the wisdom of our collective experience if its residents would just try to think a little out of the box built in the 50’s.

ajm3s writes:

in response to mrz333:

Well again ajm3s reads without ‘reading’. Might I ask what makes you think I’m unconcerned with the city’s operating costs because I became an owner in ‘2009’? I think not!
Boutique style services and businesses, now-a-days, usually refer to a small and locally owned and operated business that may or may not have the outward appearance of a traditional street front business. I don’t think you’re grasping the concept, being defined as we speak, that the ideas of retirement and retirees are changing! With these changes comes a new set of standards and services one looks for in a community. Communities which offer a certain charm with modern infrastructure and amenities will be in the forefront. The natural ‘charm’ of Marco is evident. The integration of this ‘charm’ with a responsible development process is not. And, since there seems to be plenty of vacant land here for the having, you’d think that a ‘responsible’ plan for further development would already be in place.
Now, just for your information ajm3s and not in any way offering support for a plan I did not see, many large corporations and universities operate solar power generating stations. With current Federal Tax incentives, Grants and Regulations and required utility ‘buy-backs’ it has become very profitable to operate one. The plants offer reliable clean energy, reduced utility costs for their operators, and, an investment in the future. Wouldn’t just the possibility of cheaper electricity that could potentially power a desalinization plant for cheaper water be worth looking into? Universities have built these to fund, in part, their endowments instead of more risky market investments.
These are all just ideas and no one is opening their checkbooks! Marco has a unique opportunity to look at the future with the wisdom of our collective experience if its residents would just try to think a little out of the box built in the 50’s.

It's not that you are not concerned, it's your analysis that make me shudder. Consider your own words.

You are correct, "many large corporations and universities operate solar power generating stations. With current Federal Tax incentives, Grants and Regulations and required utility ‘buy-backs’" But where you fall off the edge is when you continue on with "it has become very profitable to operate one".

If you are concerned then you lack the concept of operating and capital costs. Because if you really understand the economics of solar plants they cannot exist and compete with current energy sources without "current Federal Tax incentives, Grants and Regulations...".

Do not get upset, just do not lists all these subsidies and then claim they are profitable....if you need subsidies and grants to support and compete against traditional coal, nuclear, hydro and gas fired generating plants.

And of all things, you do not consider high value land in a resort community for solar collectors to further exacerbate the cost/benefit ratio.

Which brings me back to the point I raised in my initial comment; not all change is effective, and to use property valuations as a metric to promote redevelopment, dismisses the fact that depressed market valuation may be more a function of lending practices and other factors, which lead to the eventual bursting of a bubble.

I guess from your perspective, we need to redevelop a town instead of maintaining one, especially considering the age of Marco Island as a development. A plan (Deltona plan) that is 50 years old. In fact, I believe you and I are older than this development. Do we need a makeover, as well?

And for the record I am a retiree as well, but I do not see a need for redevelopment.... abandoned homes and vacant lots are a function of a host of issues, of which the city was indirectly promoting just a few years ago with excessive code violation fees, especially on foreclosed homes. To the point prospective buyers and sellers were led away due to code violations that sometimes exceeded the cost of the homes, especially in a depressed market. Thereby promoting more distressed property going into decay.

Yeah, I may not be able to read, But I sure can see, and the forces of change are not solved with redevelopment and a new look! Did we not like what we saw when we first crossed the bridge and decided to buy homes on this island.

So what is the problem? It may boil down to the fact that I do not see what you see. I do not hear the roar of business owners wanting to change their storefronts to "boutiques" unless of course there is a subsidy to pay for it.

And I will say it again, if you really want a dramatic change, consider the collective maintenance of condos and single family homes with no derelict properties. If we maintained our own properties, we would have more impact than a facelift of storefronts.

mrz333 writes:

More of the same!

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