MARCO ISLAND — After City Manager Jim Riviere and his wife drove around Marco Island, they came to the conclusion the city looks pretty good.
“I think the island is beautiful right now,” he told the Beautification Advisory Committee on Wednesday. Riviere made the rare step of coming forward to ask for new thinking on the way the committee addresses cul-de-sac medians.
Calling it a practical approach, he outlined a proactive program to partner with homeowners asking them to make cul-de-sac beautification a matter of pride. In return, he suggested the city could reduce the expense and impediments to establishing and maintaining them.
Cul-de-sac medians, like swales, are city property, but neighboring homeowners often take over planting and maintaining them as part of their own landscaping. To do so, the homeowner is required to receive a permit from the city and pay a $50 fee.
Riviere told the committee the fee should be waived if a homeowner wished to care for an adjacent cul-de-sac median. He also offered city support in establishing cul-de-sac plantings if homeowners chose a “Florida-friendly” approach using low-water, low-maintenance native species.
In that scenario, Riviere suggested the city could provide plants, mulch, horticulture information and maintenance guidance at no cost to homeowners. In “Florida-friendly” gardening, regular watering is only required to establish plants.
If homeowners wished to adopt cul-de-sacs but chose plants outside “Florida-friendly” species, the city could waive the permit fee but would not pay for plantings, he said.
If the committee adopts Riviere’s plan, the city could remove vegetation from orphaned cul-de-sac medians. Currently, the city has a program for maintaining and replanting cul-de-sacs, but funding has been on hold. The city has more than 300 cul-de-sac medians.
Riviere also asked committee members to participate in long-range projects providing their design expertise in public places. He asked them to consider two initial projects: Collier Boulevard’s medians from Buttonwood Court to Rose Court and City Hall’s campus.
Future projects would include Veteran’s Community Park, reviewing landscaping for the Smokehouse Bay bridge and Midtown District projects, lending expertise to making the future Mackle Park recreation center a jewel in the community, and designing waterscape plantings for the ponds in Mackle and Leigh Plummer parks.
The committee continued work on the city’s overall streetlight policy. Consensus was to remain in the same family as the Collier Boulevard lights, continuing the nautical theme throughout the island. Bryan Milk, community affairs director, offered to create a map for the committee on which it could geographically link lighting choices to district type, traffic counts and pedestrian use.
Committee member Linda Colombo expressed concern that invasive spiraling whiteflies could destroy the city’s palms. Colombo asked if the city would be willing to inoculate its palms to avoid infestation. She suggested using emergency funds.
“We need to account for inoculations in strategic planning,” Milk said. “I have over 60 acres of parks, and I don’t want this in the parks as we move forward.”
Nancy Richie, new city liaison to the beautification committee, suggested an inventory be taken to determine how many trees are infested and how many could be affected. She agreed that inoculation would be the first-line defense, but trees could be treated and saved after infestation.
“If there’s an epidemic brewing, then we need to let (Marco Island City) Council know,” Milk said.