MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island's Planning Board and Waterways Advisory Committee gathered an abundance of information but drew few conclusions during a 3-hour public workshop Friday.
The two groups were working to recommend new guidelines to City Council on the use of vacant lots for seawall manufacturing, repair and demolition. A Staging Lot Ordinance, passed by Marco Island's City Council on first reading Sept. 17 and second reading Oct. 1, would sunset the use of vacant lots by marine contractors on April 1, 2013.
City Council asked the Planning Board and Waterways Committee to consider quality of life issues for residents living near vacant lots and balance them with the needs of seawall and dock contractors. Contractors feared the loss of vacant lots would result in higher costs for consumers and longer completion times for seawall repairs and replacements.
Marco Island's canals include 120 miles of seawalls with 5,723 single-family home lots – not including Hideaway Beach and Key Marco – with seawalls. Of those, 1,089 are vacant. As the island builds out, fewer vacant lots will be available.
The city's staging ordinance gives contractors 120 days to complete projects on vacant lots and limits lot usage to once per permit. Extenuating circumstances could allow work for longer periods with city permission.
Nancy Sorboro told the workshop she endured staging on an adjacent lot twice. She explained how the ordeal affected her.
"There was a dumpster on the lot for weeks and after six months, the seawall has not been started. The dumpster was overflowing and the lot was a mess," Sorboro said. "We bought in paradise, but we can't use our home as often as we would like. We had company and could not use our lanai."
Sorboro urged the city to develop an industrial area away from residences where work could be done. Currently, residential lots are used to cast concrete panels and stage seawall work. Old panel demolition and new panel replacement is usually completed by dredge and crane near the site. Contractors said the offsite solution would cause too many complications.
"Vacant lots really are necessary," said Brian Gilmore of Collier Seawall & Dock. "I don't know if a central location could be done with the bridges we have, and that would put more trucks on the road." Gilmore compared the inconvenience caused by using vacant lots to problems created when new home construction takes place between or across from existing residences.
Randy Brodersen, canal maintenance supervisor for Punta Gorda, Fla., was invited to the workshop as guest speaker. Seawall replacement and maintenance is a function of government in Punta Gorda with single-family residences on canals assessed $500 per lot, per year. Canal-front condominiums are assessed per square foot of lot.
Punta Gorda uses assessment funds to manufacture seawall panels on city property. The city then hires contractors to maintain and replace seawalls. Panels are transported by trucks to staging sites on vacant lots for installation. Brodersen said the time that vacant lots are used for staging is reduced to approximately six weeks.
City staff told the workshop it received six complaints about vacant lot staging in the past year. Brodersen said he would be happy with so few complaints.
The Planning Board asked marine contractors how pricing would be affected by on and offsite manufacture of seawalls. Contractors were not able to provide the information, but said they would look into it and get back to the Planning Board.
The Planning Board also asked contractors to provide an assessment of what they would like to see the city adopt after the current ordinance sunsets. A workshop to continue discussing the issue was set for 9 a.m., Dec. 2, in the community meeting room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.