Seawalls coming down? Marco Planning Board wrestles with marine construction issues

Marco Island Planning Board member Marv Needles argues for giving contractors the ability to work. The board met Friday morning, with the bulk of the time spent on seawall replacement.  Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Photo by LANCE SHEARER

Marco Island Planning Board member Marv Needles argues for giving contractors the ability to work. The board met Friday morning, with the bulk of the time spent on seawall replacement. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Brian Gilmore of Collier Seawall & Dock argues for more time to work. Marco Island's Planning Board met Friday morning, with the bulk of the time spent on seawall replacement.

Photo by LANCE SHEARER

Brian Gilmore of Collier Seawall & Dock argues for more time to work. Marco Island's Planning Board met Friday morning, with the bulk of the time spent on seawall replacement.

Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent (2)
Marco Island Planning Board chairman Dick Shanahan, center, engages in discussion with member Monte Lazarus, second from right. The board met Friday morning, with the bulk of the time spent on seawall replacement.

Photo by LANCE SHEARER

Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent (2) Marco Island Planning Board chairman Dick Shanahan, center, engages in discussion with member Monte Lazarus, second from right. The board met Friday morning, with the bulk of the time spent on seawall replacement.

— Marco Island's Planning Board, meeting on Friday morning at the City Council chambers, rejected the idea that the problem of crumbling seawalls on the island can be solved with a quick fix. They took the hot potato tossed to them and city staff by the City Council, and lobbed it back with a unanimous vote indicating more time is needed to address the thorny issue.Over the next five to six years, as marine contractor Duane Thomas told the board, 50 miles or more of seawalls will need replacement on Marco. While no homeowner is happy being next door to where the work is being done, hundreds will find themselves in just that position, as seawalls built 40 years ago are either replaced or fail and tumble into the water.

The issue came to the forefront after July's City Council meeting, when the councilors reacted to homeowner Joe Varano, who catalogued the mess and inconvenience of seawall repairs being installed for his next door neighbor. In response to the council's direction, Community Affairs Director Bryan Milk led the Planning Board through a lengthy set of proposed regulations and restrictions on how seawall work could and could not be conducted.

The proposed amendment would mandate fencing to screen neighbors, require a dumpster onsite, make it illegal to demolish old seawall panels onsite to create riprap material, and reduce the number of days allowable for construction from 120 to 60.

This last provision provoked a good deal of discussion, both from the board members, and several marine contractors who were on hand for the meeting.

"Sixty days is setting us up for failure," said Brian Gilmore of Collier Seawall & Dock. "We need 120 days," he said, for concrete curing time, scheduling, and allowing other trades to work. Often, he said, marine contractors stage multiple jobs from one location. His firm often loads debris directly into a truck for disposal, he said, so a dumpster is not required.

Max Peterhans, the newest board member and a structural engineer native to Switzerland, said that, "as a structural engineer, I say that the seawalls here are a little bit lame. Where I come from are seawalls 250 years old, and they don't need repair."

He argued that using precast concrete slabs makes for a better job than casting the slabs on the jobsite, and expressed his view that Riprap should be banned altogether.

"The Riprap is going to slide out into the canals. Several people here cannot use their boat lift because of riprap. We should say no way Riprap is going to be used," said Peterhans.

Board member Marv Needles said that the more onerous regulations would end up vastly increasing the cost for everyone who needs seawall repairs.

"In my opinion, it's going too far, it's over-regulation," he said. "It's going to be more expensive for the homeowner. Let's face it, it's a construction site."

The Planning Board agreed that, despite the City Council's desire to have the matter dealt with quickly, seawall repair and replacement is a longterm issue that has provoked debate for years, and will continue to do so. Audience member Fay Biles, president of the Marco Island Taxpayers Association, said she has a crateful of materials on the issue, going back 10 years.

"People who are complaining about construction next door, wait till their seawall needs replacement," said Needles.

"This is a classic case of NIMBY," agreed Vice Chairman Jack Patterson.

By a 6-0 vote, with member David Caruso absent, the board passed Monte Lazarus' motion to table the issue, but city planner Joe Ervin cautioned that, due to the request from council, the issue would still be on the agenda for that body's next meeting.

Lazarus made another pitch in his campaign to have parking stickers provided for island residents, and City Councilor Jerry Gibson made the point that swale parking is "still open and legal." No parking signs erected 20 years ago, he noted, were put up before the City of Marco Island even existed as a separate governmental entity.

The Planning Board's next meeting is set for Sept. 7.

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Comments » 11

GFonda writes:

So, is the issuance of sea wall construction permits still on hold as was directed by City Council? Unbelievable!!!! Note that some of the councilors do NOT live on lots with sea walls. Is this catch 22 or what!!!

26yearsonmarco writes:

I agree with Mr. Peterhaus with regard to the use of precast panels, providing a manufacturer can be found within a reasonable distance from Marco. They would be delivered to the job site completely cured with the strength quality controlled by proper curing, and will reduce the job time.

As lots continue to sell, it will become harder to find vacant lots, and eventually all seawall work will be performed from barges.

The used panels could be returned to the manufacturer on the same truck the new ones are delivered on. The used panels could be crushed and screened for aggregate in the new panels.

ed34145 writes:

All of us living on the water on in the same boat, so to speak. At some point, everyone's seawall will have to be replaced. Yes, it is an inconvenience, perhaps even annoyance when it occurs next to you, but one day it will be you. It's ridiculous that one person's complaint should make an even bigger problem for all of us. But, then again, this is Marco Island!

And with due respect to Mr. Peterhans, I didn't realize that Switzerland's waterways were saline and subject to extreme tides and frequent storms.

mrz333 writes:

With respect Mr. Gilmore, I've seen and experienced 1st hand what you call a "construction site". We all know you could do a much better job of making it easier for all concerned. Your sites become collection grounds, for months at a time, for debris while you spread your work onto lots in places where work is not being performed. You have no desire to use precast panels as it cuts into your profit and no interest in adopting newer methods for repairs and replacement for that same reason. I would say that, in fact, you seem to hold a whole community hostage to better your own interests.

How many miles of seawalls in need of repair and how many $$$ per foot would be enough to make you happy?

Throat_Yogurt writes:

Duane's just looking for business. What a scam

captnjimbo writes:

in response to ed34145:

All of us living on the water on in the same boat, so to speak. At some point, everyone's seawall will have to be replaced. Yes, it is an inconvenience, perhaps even annoyance when it occurs next to you, but one day it will be you. It's ridiculous that one person's complaint should make an even bigger problem for all of us. But, then again, this is Marco Island!

And with due respect to Mr. Peterhans, I didn't realize that Switzerland's waterways were saline and subject to extreme tides and frequent storms.

I did not have to make up my own letter because as I was reading the article I came to the exact same position. Also, I don't think these expert contractors need advice on how to do their business from the government.

marcofriend writes:

Unfortunately this whole issue is because Mr Thomas demolished a house and dumped it on a lot so that he could "produce" rip rap. The ordinance only allowed for seawall panels that had been removed to be used for rip rap. Had the rules been followed, this issue would not have even went to the City Council who just dumps it back to the Planning Board (and the games go on and on).

MrBreeze writes:

How is that no one has looked into "Refinishing" the existing panels. This method is done in concrete bridge piers and panels. I would believe the same concept could be applied where the panel would not have to be changed at all.

Sounds like another "Mark-up" island industry when you start talking sea walls. Like copper plumbing,sewer repair, tile roofs, Screen lani's and our dear friend HVAC.

deltarome writes:

With all due respect to Mr Thomas, he has been preaching for the past 5 years that half of Marco's seawalls will need to be replaced in next 5 years. He seems too self serving on his predictions. As far as precast or cast onsite, cast offsite is predicted to be less costly for lots that don't have an adjacent empty lot. If empty lots are not available for one reason or another, all the work at an existing lot with a house, will need to be done from the waterside anyways and new panels need to be replaced by barge. That adds a LOT to the overall cost, as compared to using ground based equipment. Sheet piling on outside and use of riprap is still the least costly way to extend life of an existing seawall.

bostonwhaler writes:

It is time that we Marcoites come into the modern age. The state has given Marco the right to encroach into canals by 18". Installation of plastic sheeting in front of existing walls is the only way to construct new walls and not impact the existing soil or our neighbors. How simple an operation to place a new wall in front of the existing one, place a new concrete cap one foot above the existing one and install tie backs . In an ideal location the wall can be installed using a pneumatic hammer and will require no excavation, minimal debris removal, no foliage disruption and all work can be done from the water side.
What we need is a contractor who is willing to ramp up to this technique and this is where the city could become evolved. The city could even purchase sheeting in bulk to achieve a discount.

MrBreeze writes:

Bostonwhaler, sounds like the method that needs to be in place. But like anything else they look for the complicated and expensive on Marco Island.

With your example, the seawall would then be double in thickness and strength.

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