MARCO ISLAND — Taking a stroll on Marco Island could be getting easier, but homowners may be asked to foot the bill. As government groups move closer to developing a right-of-way handbook, they will be looking at renovating sidewalks and standardizing width in conjunction with developing protocols for swale composition.
Tim Pinter, public works director, walked members of Marco Island’s Planning Board through revisions to the draft handbook on Friday. Using input from the Beautification Advisory Committee, Bike Path Volunteer Committee and fire department, city staff will ask city councilors to require that all swales composed of inorganic materials conform to new landscape standards.
The change comes as the city moves toward improving water quality in waterways around the island. Removing loose materials also will reduce the amount of debris carried off by rainwater or irrigation runoff. Loose material, such as stone, gravel, shell and some varieties of mulch, can clog or damage drainage systems, Pinter said.
Using organic materials improves water quality by allowing collected water to percolate through nature’s filters. Those filters remove pollutants and excess nutrients while preventing erosion. Because water is absorbed by organic materials, less water is released during flooding events. That means less excess materials are carried away to plug storm filters and clog grates or outfalls associated with storm water containment drains.
In his written report to the Planning Board, Pinter estimated that 600 lots had non-conforming swales. When he addressed the board, he lowered that estimate to 300-400 lots noting they were located all around the island. In a report given to the Beautification Advisory Committee on Wednesday, Pinter estimated the number at around 200 out of 6,000 lots.
Included in the draft handbook are appropriate groundcovers suggested by the beautification committee, Pinter said. The committee’s recommendations were sod, sunshine mimosa and perennial peanut.
If the handbook is approved by city council, landowners adjacent to public swales will have one year from its adoption to remove inorganic materials and install conforming landscaping. It will be the landowner’s responsibility to water the new materials until established and maintain the swale to handbook standards.
Pinter estimated the cost per adjacent right-of-way to a single family lot owner would be approximately $1,500 to $1,800. That amount was based on removing existing inorganic materials and any contaminated soil and restoring the right-of-way with accepted plantings.
In addition, the city will be looking to standardize all sidewalks to a minimum of 6 feet wide, although some may be adjusted to 5 feet, Pinter said. Shared use sidewalks – those open to walkers, runners, joggers and bicyclists – will be 8 feet wide except in the mid-town area where they will be 10 feet wide. Pinter said with the new swale materials, the wider sidewalks would meet fire department requirements.
Many of the original 4-foot sidewalks are cracked, uneven and dangerous, Pinter said. Homeowners should repair and maintain them if safety issues exist. In addition, sidewalks must meet ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act, standards.
Widening the sidewalks will bring the city into the 21st Century, Pinter said.
Homes with brick pavers on driveways that cross sidewalks will be exempt provided the pavers match the sidewalk’s 2-percent slope.
Public speaker Bruce Allen of Lido Court asked the Planning Board to consider the amount of usage sidewalks get before expanding them.
“No one ever uses the sidewalk on our street and the homes are beautifully landscaped,” he explained.
The Planning Board will review the handbook’s revisions and supply hardcopy comments before further presentations. The Planning Board’s next scheduled meeting will be held at 9 a.m., Feb. 3, in the community room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.