Positions were changed at the beginning of Monday’s business portion of council’s regularly scheduled meeting. The new chairman and vice chairman are expected to serve for one year.
As his first order of business, Magel addressed more than 40 residents from Swallow Avenue and Seagrape Drive on the continuing parking problem near the South Marco Beach entrance. The two roads offer easy access to the beach.
Vehicles are parking in the right-of-ways on both sides of the road on Swallow Avenue from early morning to late night, public speaker Bob Newman told council. Landscapers cannot get into the swales to cut the grass because cars are there. It’s tough to get out of driveways and exiting is dangerous, he said.
Bicyclist Tom Bitner said he and his wife were nearly involved in an accident when someone opened a car trunk into the roadway where they were riding. Residents on Seagrape Drive complained cars were parking right up to the blacktop and obstructed loading and unloading of buses at the southwest corner of the road. People have to get around traffic to get on buses, they said.
Tim Pinter, city public works director, reported that staff evaluated the problem and placed “no parking” signs 15 feet on either side of private driveways on Swallow Avenue from Seagrape Drive to Huron Court.
Pinter said city staff later relocated the signs at a distance of 30 feet from driveways. Total cost of signs and two installations was $2,200, he reported. The cost included replacements for some signs that were vandalized and mutilated.
Residents at the meeting felt the situation was marginally improved but urged additional steps be taken. Suggestions from public speakers included requiring parallel parking rather than front-in parking on Swallow Avenue, ticketing parked vehicles trespassing on roadway surfaces or sidewalks, and developing a long-term solution for beach parking including an additional parking lot.
At a previous meeting when the problem was discussed, council said it would consider talking to the Marco Island Civic Association about using its lot for overflow parking.
In regards to using MICA’s parking lot at South Marco Beach, Magel said council looked into it and found it could not be done. MICA’s deed restrictions contain limitations on how the property can be used, he said.
Marco Island Police Chief Don Hunter reported his agency was aware of the problem. Police officers have stepped up patrols in the area and have been trying to educate people to gain cooperation, he said. He agreed the signs worked to a certain extent and that angled parking was the problem.
“I would suggest education, remind people, then enforcement,” Hunter said. A long-term plan was critical, he admitted, and said Pinter and City Manager Jim Riviere were working on a solution.
Riviere suggested the parking lot at Veterans’ Community Park could be used with shuttles to all beach entrances including Tigertail Beach, walk-on entrances at the Madeira Condominium and Marriott’s Crystal Shores and at Marco South Beach. A more definitive plan would be available for council in about a month, he said.
After the meeting Peter Hughes, building manager for several condominiums in the area, said he was very upset that the city ignored the residents and accomplished nothing.