Naples City Council: Push made to make empty lot prime parking

Naples Mayor John Sorey

Naples Mayor John Sorey

Naples residents are urging City Council to purchase a downtown parking lot next to the Naples Woman’s Club and open the chained-off property for public use.

Lee Kraus, president of the Naples Woman’s Club at 570 Park Street, told council on Wednesday that the club’s board has kept the lot closed to avoid damages to cars or danger to people as it cannot afford to maintain the property.

The lots sit across from Cambier Park, near The Von Liebig Art Center and the Girl Scouts’ building. Given its prime location, Naples resident and retired judge Lynne Hixon-Holley said full-time residents and tourists alike would find the parking valuable.

Kraus said the property has yet to be listed, but offers came in to purchase the lot while she inquired about selling it.

“We do have a couple of offers for the property,” Kraus said. “By all means, we would prefer to keep it with the city.”

City staff will meet with Kraus to look into a possible deal, Mayor John Sorey said. In the meantime, residents like Hixon-Holley, hope the property doesn’t get rezoned for another use.

“It really has nothing to do with the Woman’s Club,” said Hixon-Holley, who has lived in Naples for 60 years. “There’s a vacant lot over there that’s rarely used while people drive around looking for a spot.”

“If it belonged to the city, even it was meters or a charge, people would be happy to pay and park there,” said resident Linda Condon, who counted 54 potential parking spaces in the lot when she walked her dog past it this week.

Condon and Hixon-Holley were former members of the Woman’s Club.

Kraus said the club hopes to direct money used for maintaining the property toward scholarships and other functions.

“By all means, make us an offer,” she told council.

SIGN DENIED

Tenants of the newly renovated Naples Plaza on U.S. 41 want to make sure their businesses are visible from the road and their signs are aesthetically pleasing.

That's why anchor tenant Publix asked for and received a variance to increase its sign from the allowed 80-square feet to 150-square feet in September.

But council voted against allowing a sign of the same size or larger for the PGA Superstore at the opposite end of the plaza Wednesday, saying each variance should be viewed individually and that an 80-foot sign would work for that store.

Ed LaPierre, general manager for the PGA Superstore, said he did not know about the Publix sign when he filed for this variance.

The Design Review Board had suggested he increase the sign size to make it proportional to the store frontage, he said.

Signs for Marshall's, West Marine and Office Depot have already been bought and installed at the allowed 80-square-foot size, said Senior Planner with the city Adam Benigni.

Councilman Gary Price voted not to approve the variance for the PGA Superstore, citing current code.

"If we don't like our standards, we should change the code, but we shouldn't change how we apply that code," he said.

Council was split in their vote. Both Sorey and Councilman Bill Barnett voted against denying the variance.

Airport Commissioner

Council appointed former councilman Johnny Nocera to the Naples Airport Authority for a four-year term beginning next month.

Nocera, who currently serves as a member of the Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board, said during his interview he would resign from that position if appointed as an airport commissioner.

City Attorney Bob Pritt said Nocera may not have to resign simply for being appointed to a second position, but that determination could be made moot if Nocera does resign.

In his interview before council Monday, Nocera indicated he supported the 75,000-pound weight limit as it stands for keeping larger planes from landing at the airport.

Nocera replaces Commissioner Bobby Sullivan.

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