Battle lines are drawn – Marco Island Planning Board hears pro- and anti-swale parking viewpoints

Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent (2)
Public interest is high in the discussion of swale parking in Old Marco.  Marco Island's Planning Board met Friday in City Council chambers with parking issues on the agenda.

Photo by LANCE SHEARER

Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent (2) Public interest is high in the discussion of swale parking in Old Marco. Marco Island's Planning Board met Friday in City Council chambers with parking issues on the agenda.

Eileen Ward speaks for condominium residents in the Old Marco district. Marco Island's Planning Board met Friday in City Council chambers with parking issues on the agenda. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Photo by LANCE SHEARER

Eileen Ward speaks for condominium residents in the Old Marco district. Marco Island's Planning Board met Friday in City Council chambers with parking issues on the agenda. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Board member Bob Brown makes a point. Marco Island's Planning Board met Friday in City Council chambers with parking issues on the agenda. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Photo by LANCE SHEARER

Board member Bob Brown makes a point. Marco Island's Planning Board met Friday in City Council chambers with parking issues on the agenda. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Joe Irvin of the Community Affairs Dept. lays out parking options for Marco Island's Planning Board. The panel met Friday in City Council chambers. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Photo by LANCE SHEARER

Joe Irvin of the Community Affairs Dept. lays out parking options for Marco Island's Planning Board. The panel met Friday in City Council chambers. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Susan Ackerson speaks for the business owners in the Old Marco district. Marco Island's Planning Board met Friday in City Council chambers with parking issues on the agenda.

Photo by LANCE SHEARER

Susan Ackerson speaks for the business owners in the Old Marco district. Marco Island's Planning Board met Friday in City Council chambers with parking issues on the agenda.

— Battle lines are drawn –Marco Planning Board hears pro and anti swale parking viewpoints

The topic will be taken up in a joint workshop with the Planning Board and the City Council, set for July 16, with City Councilor Jerry Gibson, watching the Planning Board meeting from the back of the room, predicting a "Donnybrook."

Vice chairman Jack Patterson cautioned, "we're going to get into a circus" with the City Council. "We need to make a firm recommendation. They need a lot of guidance, and we're going to give it to them," he said, adding, "hi Jerry" to Gibson. Council Chairman Larry Magel also watched the proceedings.

Contingents from both the homeowners and businesspeople camps sat through the discussion, although even with a significant number of citizens in the audience, the first two rows in the council chamber were empty, reminiscent of junior high school. The arguments were at a higher level, though, with each side presenting valid points for their incompatible conclusions.

Robert Green, general manager of the Riverside Club condos, framed the issue as safety.

"We're not as interested in the concerns of the business owners. First and foremost, our concern is safety," he said, invoking the possibility of limited visibility and a car door opening leading to a sudden meeting of motorist and pedestrian. "We've seen situations where accidents could happen."

Planning Board member Monte Lazarus responded that the problem is no worse in the Old Marco district than anywhere else.

"My car's been smashed three times in parking lots at shopping malls," he said. "I've been parking at Old Marco for years, and I've never seen a problem. We've never had an accident up there."

Landscaper Eileen Ward of Greensward said that condo owners don't want cars parked in front of their properties.

"A muddy swale doesn't help property values," she said. She pointed out that Arturo's and the Snook Inn had been required to buy additional land for expanded parking.

Susan Ackerson, owner of the Old Marco Pub and Anchor Real Estate, pointed out that the swales are city property, not the possession of the condominiums. She laid responsibility for the problem with the owners and management of one particular property.

"Marco Vista has been relentless, trying to create an unsafe parking situation," said Ackerson. She detailed how the condo's representatives had turned on sprinklers for hours in the evening to deter – or soak – those parking in the swales, put up dozens of reflectors, bushes and lines of police tape, plus planting palm trees in the right of way.

"The city has been looking the other way. That is not Marco Vista's property. Those palm trees should not have been planted," she said, acknowledging the condominium had been given permits for the palms.

Lazarus made one suggestion that received a lot of support from his fellow board members, that residents be given parking stickers allowing them to park where non-islanders would be prohibited. But as member Marv Needles pointed out, that would not solve the issue of swale parking, as many of those vehicles are driven by Marco Islanders. In the past, he said, the city allowed restaurants to expand as they wanted, without adequate parking.

"To a great deal, we're dealing with the sins of the past," said Patterson.

In addition to the Old Marco situation, which took up the bulk of the meeting's time and energy, the board looked at a wide range of parking issues presented by Joe Irvin of the Community Affairs Dept., from beach access to a potential multi-story parking garage.

Planning Board Chairman Dick Shanahan and Vice Chairman Patterson were confirmed by unanimous votes to hold their leadership positions through the November elections. The board has its next regular meeting on August 3, but more July fireworks can be expected at the joint workshop with City Council on July 16.

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Comments » 4

captnjimbo writes:

Why don't people park in the swales along Collier Blvd?

I see what is happening along Swallow and it is a shame and can have no happy ending for that residential community. The folks parking there are not from Marco Island and before the free parking probably beached in Naples. The word is out that there is free parking near the South Beach entrance and they are coming in droves. Over the weekend wife was coming home...two families emerged onto the street from between two swale parked vans. The parents went to the back of the van's to off load the beach stuff and their children followed them, but as the doors were open the kids went into the street and stood in the street stopping traffic. It happens all the time. The swales are getting messy, the trash has to be picked up and as this spreads it is changing the ambiance of the Island, especially the residential areas. This swale parking is just plain wrong and even the people with businesses know it. That said, there is a difference between a commercial area and a residential area. Ample parking in a commercial area enhances value...illegal parking in swales in a residential area brings down value...who wants to live in the middle of a daily circus? (if it isn't illegal it should be)

ajm3s writes:

Lets review: Old Marco is zoned mixed use (multifamily and commercial), and South Beach free parking is zoned multifamily residential.

How can one be confident with city management and planning in the future if the city cannot adequately evaluate and prioritize the concerns which plague this island.

We know we have parking issues which is related to swale specifications (ROW standards). And on the horizon is Market Center redevelopment using density transfer to increase density.

Today, we have unresolved ROW specifications because the city refused to listen and address public comment who raise legitimate issues.

If you really want "a small town" atmosphere one cannot accept density transfer as a viable option to consider given the parking issues in areas outside of Market Center. And you MUST have a ROW standard that addresses the multiple uses of swales beyond its primary role in stormwater management.

The key is to manage existing facilities, NOT increase density or expand services. For the record, most "small towns" in commercial areas allow parking in areas identified as ROW.

Perhaps it is me, but I believe the leadership on council and this city along with proponents are misguided. I will defend the Planning Board to the extent that the city does NOT adhere to the simple request made by the board. Remember, earlier this year, Mr. Lazarus requested that the city review and sit down with those who raised public concerns regarding ROW's. Not a single effort made by Mr. Pinter or the City Manager.

So how can one be confident in long term planning efforts? How can one conclude that by increasing density in areas identified for development as well as redevelopment, that it will resolve the parking issues that constantly plague this island in season?

So folks, why is the city considering density transfer, when we have parking issues? So we can park more cars in Market Center?

Focus! Because leadership is myopic and misguided!

Example: Mr. Magel is cheer leading the proposal for a November referendum to consider subsidizing a 24 hr urgent care center. I hear a clamoring for a resolution to the parking issues, not the subsidization of a 24 hr care center. And don't forget the originally proposed $5MM Community Center that is now a downsized $3.5MM center with a 1.5MM gymnasium adder. Did anyone do the math? What changed?

For comparison, the dog park folks raised all the money for a $50K dog park while the proponents of a super-sized Community Center are searching for the "big" donation. I guess the future "public" support, will be a private company, NOT a summation of donations from individual citizens. So again, I ask where is the support from the citizens? Or is it again, city sponsored sales hype and misguided pursuits at the expense of public problems NOT being addressed?

But hey we want more on this island because it will provide more revenue? Really?

They are all inter-related!

WizeOlMarco writes:

There is a solution to the Old Marco parking...put up a garage at the location of the planned staging area for the horse & buddy operators, redirect the CAT bus service to the location, call it the Marco Island multi-modal center...hey, it's even close to the cruise boats. Except for the occaisional horse, no swale impacts and no speeding along Bald Eagle...may need more horses.

captnjimbo writes:

The solution is to make the swale parking illegal and ticket and tow.

If not done this will be so far out of hand we may lose control and never get it back.

I think if council does not adress this soon it should become a major election issue for those wishing to serve.

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