MARCO ISLAND — More than 100 people turned out for public comment at Monday’s city council meeting to bring attention to parking problems at South Marco Beach public entrance on Collier Boulevard. Parking was not on the agenda, but citizens living near the entrance spoke during the Community Forum segment of the meeting.
Edward Purevich, spokesman for the group, presented Marco Island City Councilors with a handout including photos of offending vehicles. He also read the presentation into public record. Purevich is a resident of Marisol Plaza Condominium at the corner of Swallow Avenue and Seagrape Drive, the hub of swale parking problems.
Residents shared concerns for safety and property damage. They requested city council consider alternatives to on-street parking or restrict vehicles to parallel parking only.
Parking on-street in public right-of-ways, referred to as swale parking on Marco Island, occurs when the county’s public lot is full during peak season, summer and holidays, residents said. Collier County owns a 70-space parking lot on Swallow Avenue that can be accessed by beach parking permit or a fee of $8 at a master meter on the premises. There is no charge to park in the public right-of-way.
Marco Island Civic Association also owns a parking facility at South Marco Beach entrance, but parking is restricted to MICA members only. Both parking facilities were acquired through county concessions in the development of Cape Marco. MICA’s parking facility includes restrooms and a private picnic area.
Swallow Avenue links South Collier Boulevard to Collier Court and is traveled by residents in the largely condominium area. Residents described vehicles obstructing sidewalks and overhanging roadways. Vehicles also park in front of fire hydrants, and in some cases, on driveways to private property, residents said.
Residents on Swallow Avenue complained that cars park nose-in and side-by-side on both sides of the road filling swales and blocking driveway views. On Seagrape Drive, cars parallel park on both sides of the road with occupants exiting into traffic, residents said.
Right-of-way parking increased as it became common practice. Greater numbers of vehicles have resulted in increased pedestrian activity on sidewalks and indiscriminate crossing of roadways, residents reported.
Residents understood that people come to the area for beach access, but felt the situation was out of hand. Condominium association representatives responsible for maintaining adjacent right-of-ways said they found it difficult to keep swales in good maintenance with the damage from constant use and leaking vehicle fluids.
Capt. Dave Baer of the Marco Island Police Department said the city could enforce encroachment on sidewalks, roadways and hydrants. No ordinance prohibiting swale parking or requiring parking a certain distance from private driveways existed, he said.
There is an ordinance that prohibits parking on all city swales between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.
“We concur there is a problem that can be handled with signage and enforcement,” Baer said. “Signs are going to work. It’s the most efficient and quickest way.”
Additional signs can be placed in the area by approval of the city manager. Council asked city staff to contact MICA and see if vehicles could make use of the members-only lot for parking at a nominal charge.
Councilor Chuck Kiester asked if some kind of barrier could be erected between driveways that would physically stop people from parking. Residents did not appear to favor that solution.
“Our beach is beautiful, and if we didn’t have the concern, we wouldn’t be here,” said James Webb of Florentine Gardens Condominium. “We’re not occupiers, these are solid citizens. This is causing tremendous problems.”