MARCO ISLAND — Go to tripadvisor.com and one comment about Marco Island’s south beach reads: “Parking is available for $8/day but usually there is street parking within a block for free.”
Another entry headlines: “come early for on-street free parking.”
Residents and Marco Island’s Planning Board agreed Friday that corrective action on south beach’s parking problem needs to happen sooner rather than later and preferably before July 4. Two area residents reported losing real estate sales because buyers were not happy with swale parking.
Joe Irvin, city zoning administrator, offered several solutions. Among them were additional parking lots in C-3 areas near the south beach and Marriott entrances, and placing a beach tram in service from inland parking areas to deliver beachgoers to public beach entrances. Neither curried favor with most board members or the public.
Ruth McCann from Marco Island Civic Association stood firm on no shared parking at its privately owned south beach parking lot. City staff reported no parking spaces were negotiated with Marriott’s Crystal Shores when an easement for beach access was given in exchange for density considerations.
Irvin listed Tigertail Beach with 287 parking spaces as an underutilized facility. He suggested better signage to Tigertail and roadway upgrades including turn lanes would make it easier to travel toward and from the area. County residents can obtain stickers to park for free at Tigertail Beach and the county’s south beach parking area. All others pay $8.
Debbie Roddy, a member of the city’s Beach Advisory Committee, said if free parking in the swales is available, any solution that required people to pay for access would not work.
“The county recorded 2,145 turnarounds at the Tigertail Beach toll booth in a year’s time,” she said. “Those are people who just don’t want to pay.”
She also said the county was close to completing its sixth boardwalk at the south end of Tigertail Beach. With the new boardwalk, getting to the beach would take about the same time as parking in Swallow Avenue swales and walking to south beach.
City Council Chairman Larry Magel urged the board to consider all swale parking problems, not just the south beach area. The board agreed the city needed a global solution but felt swale parking should be banned entirely on Swallow Avenue, Seagrape Drive, Swan Drive and Maple Avenue.
In other action, the planning board held a public hearing to amend an ordinance on temporary signage. To accommodate special events, the board moved to permit seven signs to remain on public right-of-ways for seven days. The original ordinance was written for 10 signs, but recent permits have allowed only five. The decision was a compromise.
Lana Fitzgerald, publicity chairwoman for St. Mark’s Episcopal Church’s annual flea market, thanked the board for helping service groups and churches promote their events.
The board discussed banning light-emitting diode (LED) signs. The Marco Lutheran Church and Tommie Barfield Elementary have LED signs on their properties. After discussing the safety hazards of rapidly changing messages, board members chose to allow LED signs but require a minimum time the message would appear. They voted to ban reader boards with flowing LED messages.
As part of temporary signage, the board banned political signs in city right-of-ways and signage using live animals or humans.
The Planning Board will hold a workshop at 9 a.m., May 18, in the Community Room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive, to formalize a swale parking plan. Final recommendations will be shared with city council at a later date. It will be up to council to move forward with an ordinance.