MARCO ISLAND — Vowing to do a better job with public communication, Marco Island’s Planning Board reopened discussion Friday on the Midtown District.
Joe Irvin, zoning administrator, presented a draft overlay for the area previously described as the CRA or Community Redevelopment Area for midtown Marco Island. On July 14, 2010, the CRA Ad-hoc Advisory Committee asked Planning Board to table the project for two years.
The new overlay subdivides midtown into eight districts that preserve distinct identities. Sub-districts are organized by characteristics including residential, industrial, recreational, shopping and marine.
Upgrades for all areas would include adhering to the Comprehensive Plan, building on natural assets and maintaining midtown as the center of commerce and civil life, Irvin said. The strategies Irvin asked planning board to consider were delineated moving forward for 1-3 years, 3-7 years and 7-plus years.
Each strategy would be tested against the plan’s two overall goals. The first keeps the area’s tropical small-town feel while maintaining its social and economic viability. The second provides better transportation with bike routes, traffic calming and pedestrian walkways for continuity of movement within the district.
Irvin linked viability to a thriving center with community activities and special events. Amenities required would include public restrooms and drinking fountains, safety and informational signage, pubic parking and crosswalks and defined routing for people and vehicles in and around activities. Irvin pointed to three alleyways in midtown as underused byways that could be woven into the city’s plan.
Transfer credits from waterfront to upland development would be considered as planning progressed, but no increase in density would be proposed under Irvin’s plan. Currently, 340 waterfront properties could transfer credits within the midtown district while still maintaining the maximum 12-units per acre for the district.
In the short term, Irvin asked planning board members to involve the Arts Advisory Committee in creating an overall midtown insignia that would identify gateways into the area and associate them with way-finding signs. Secondly, he asked for permission to begin holding meetings to engage midtown’s businesses and residents for ideas and feedback.
“First, we need to address code compliance issues on signage and hedges,” suggested Marv Needles of the planning board.
Board member Monty Lazarus asked if Irvin could hold a series of meetings prior to formal town hall meetings to educate the public about various facets of midtown development. He also asked Irvin to compile examples of other midtowns where redevelopment upgraded areas.
Public speaker Steve Stefanides asked planning board members to consider tax incentives for business owners who spent their own money cleaning up alleyways. He also asked planners to keep in mind that Marco Island is a year-round community. He suggested the city purchase a portable stage for use citywide.
Chairman Dick Shanahan said the board would consider Irvin’s plan in future meetings and asked him to provide a provisional timeline for the board’s next meeting.
The Planning Board discussed holding its next scheduled meeting for 9 a.m., March 2, in the city’s community room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.