MARCO ISLAND — After four years, redevelopment in Marco’s mid-town is still a priority for Marco Island’s Planning Board.
On Friday, newly named Community Affairs Zoning Administrator Joe Irvin was tapped to head up a revival of plans for mid-town enhancements. His assignment included using the art of persuasion. The Planning Board tasked Irvin with solidifying buy-in from the zone’s stakeholders.
Irvin, previously a city planner for Sequim, Wash., made his first Planning Board presentation Friday suggesting the city define its goals and objectives for mid-town redevelopment; and then develop a draft matrix for businesses and the public to review.
The mid-town area includes Veteran’s Community Park, the Esplanade, Town Center and surrounding shopping plazas, East and West Elkcam Circles and portions of Bald Eagle Drive down to Marco River Marina.
Planning Board members agreed that the city botched the initial presentation of a Community Redevelopment Area or CRA for the island’s mid-town. The vision was too vague with no specific plans, they said.
“There was great confusion caused by the city,” said board member Monte Lazarus. “People didn’t know what the CRA was and people were afraid the city would come in and dictate the way things had to be.”
Two public planning charrettes in 2009 brainstormed ideas for improving the mid-town area. High on the list were solving traffic congestion, controlling storm runoff, adding landscaping, offering public transportation and maintaining commercial success for existing businesses.
During a contentious meeting in April 2010, Marco Island’s city council tabled plans for moving forward with the CRA. Instead, councilors opted to create an advisory committee. Steve Thompson, then city manager, told an angry crowd that the downtown area would not increase its value without an overriding plan.
At Friday’s Planning Board meeting, Marco Island’s Community Affairs Director Bryan Milk pointed to the charettes and ideas collected in the past as the starting point for reviving the process. He asked the board to consider hiring a consultant to move forward with public participation.
Milk suggested the board adopt a public process like the one used for Veterans’ Community Park. That final plan provided a roadmap for the park’s use and amenities. He asked the Planning Board to consider a similar action.
“Having public input in the process is very important to this board,” he said.
“I’d rather have the consultant play devil’s advocate,” said board member David Caruso. “Wouldn’t it make more sense for the city to go through ideas from key citizens and bring them back to us?”
Board members Marv Needles and Lazarus agreed that city staff should bring together all input into one package for review.
“We’re going around and around,” said Needles. “Let Joe bring it all together.”
Irvin felt the decision was a good one.
“A lot of good ideas have already been fleshed out for this project, and mid-town has some good ‘bones’ already in place,” Irvin added.
Board member Jack Patterson agreed that staff could do the legwork, but felt a consultant would make sense.
“We need some professional guidance in this,” he said.
The Planning Board chose to move forward asking the city to combine ideas from prior public meetings with an explanation of what had changed since the public planning charrettes. The board will review the information in January.
A formal presentation was set for March.
The Planning Board cancelled its Nov. 11 meeting, so members could attend the opening ceremonies at Veterans’ Community Park. The Planning Board’s next meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 9, in the city’s Community Meeting Room at 51 Bald Eagle Drive.