Storage wars, parking battle leave Marco Island Planning Board in center of scrum

A large crowd attends Friday’s Planning Board meeting to protest a conditional use change for Progressive Auto and to discuss parking problems in Old Marco. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

A large crowd attends Friday’s Planning Board meeting to protest a conditional use change for Progressive Auto and to discuss parking problems in Old Marco. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

— Mike Kelly, Sr., whose son owns Progressive Auto Storage, left Planning Board without persuading anyone he should be given conditional use for mini-storage in his son’s “car condo.”

Mario Rizzi, owner of Rizzi Storage and Industrial, was so upset by pending action he brought a lawyer with stenographer to Friday’s public hearing.

Rizzi’s storage at 939 Chalmers Drive is zoned C-5 while Progressive’s on Bald Eagle Drive is C-4. The two building are a stone’s throw from each other.

Rizzi’s building is appropriately zoned in heavy industrial as outline in the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Progressive Auto’s car condo was accepted in C-4, built with the promise that only vehicles would be stored there.

Kelly came to the board to change the agreement, asking permission to place storage pods, containers and other large items within the building. But arguments on both sides ensued over how the issue was brought before Marco Island’s board.

Kelly said he was the sole applicant and had paid $2,000 for the hearing, which was advertised in the Naples Daily News as an action by city staff, not by a petitioner. Rizzi’s attorney argued if Kelly was correct, the city should have prepared required paperwork for the petition. He suggested city staff contravened proper notice requirements.

City attorney Burt Saunders defended staff, saying the issue came before the Planning Board in the proper way.

Kelly argued the conditional use request was predicated on the fact that he could supply storage where others could not. His son’s 75-foot tall, five-story building has a freight elevator, air conditioning and large open units. He claimed that other mini-storages did not offer those advantages and were too full to meet island needs.

He also claimed the issue had been settled in September 2012, and the city failed to give proper notice to finalize the change.

But four owners of storage in the C-5 zone refuted Kelly’s claims. Their buildings offered similar space and were not fully occupied, they said. If space filled up, they or others could build additional units in C-5 capable of meeting large storage needs.

Keeping storage in C-5 zones offered a competitive playing field, owners felt. The car condo already exceeded their 35-foot maximum height requirement by being placed in C-4 zoning. Granting it the same industrial use as allowed for C-5 storage created an unfair advantage, they said.

Rizzi’s attorney argued that storage was permitted in C-5 because that zone was more buffered from residential areas. He argued a change in storage for C-4 was not consistent with the city’s land use plans and granted a special privilege to an existing property owner.

The most persuasive presentation was an overlay of midtown’s C-4 area. If Kelly’s storage plan was permitted and set a precedent in the C-4 zone, the potential could exist for five-story storage from Rose Marina to Kretch’s on Bald Eagle Drive and on other main midtown thoroughfares.

The Planning Board decided unanimously not to approve the conditional use on first reading. The board plans to take up further discussion of midtown development at a later date.

“It was a right decision. I played by the rules,” said Rizzi. “My storage has never been 100-percent full, and I do have industrial storage on the first floor that would allow the same storage Kelly is requesting. I don’t mind competition for storage in C-5, but this was not fair.”

Old Marco parking

The Planning Board was divided on whether the parking problem in Old Marco was an issue. Monte Lazarus contended that the problem was manufactured by one condominium that wanted to control the city’s swale on the west side of Bald Eagle Drive.

Bob Brown was troubled by the spacing of trees planted in the westside swale, saying it didn’t look like anything else in the city. He was concerned the intent had been to block parking, not to beautify Old Marco.

Bryan Milk, community affairs director, said the trees were permitted by the city to be planted 18 feet apart. That amount, he said, would have allowed cars to park between trees.

Susan Ackerson, a restaurateur in the area, presented the board with a chart measuring trees as close as 13 feet, making it impossible for cars to park in the city swale as permitted.

Jack Barter, president of Marco Vista Condominium, said the issue was not the trees but city approved restaurant expansions without regard for necessary parking and public safety.

“We don’t want our swale used as a parking lot,” he said, referring to them as the condo’s front yard. “We’d end up with a muddy swale by letting people park on the west.”

Barter suggested restaurants work out eastside parking or find ways to valet park cars.

“It was not a safety issue until they (Marco Vista) got permission to put in the trees,” said Peter Marek of Marek’s Collier House Restaurant. He suggested the city had looked the other way when it came to code violations by the condominium.

Both parties were in agreement that lower speed limits and caution signs could make the area safer. The board said it would ask the city to look into providing signage. On the issue of parking, the board asked city staff to bring both parties together to discuss solutions.

© 2013 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 4

marco97 writes:

I drive down bald eagle every night from old Marco and many times the cars parked on the swales are partly on the road and not all the way in the swale. it is a dangerous situation when you have cars parked on both sides of the road and not enough room for north south traffic to pass safely.

WizeOlMarco writes:

The solution is for the business owners to provide their own off-street parking by reorganizing their existing parking, buy another property for parking, or moving the business to a property large enough to support the level of business they want to operate. The City's role should be to enforce the existing laws, not rearrange the laws/rules and streetscape to match a business owner's desire. Along Bald Eagle including Old Marco are other commercial properties including vacant land for sale. There is no role for the City to fix this private business issue.

marcofriend writes:

in response to WizeOlMarco:

The solution is for the business owners to provide their own off-street parking by reorganizing their existing parking, buy another property for parking, or moving the business to a property large enough to support the level of business they want to operate. The City's role should be to enforce the existing laws, not rearrange the laws/rules and streetscape to match a business owner's desire. Along Bald Eagle including Old Marco are other commercial properties including vacant land for sale. There is no role for the City to fix this private business issue.

I would agree with you had our previous City Council not changed the dynamic so that parking was defined by square footage as opposed to seating. They (the Council) created the problem. The business owners utilize what was given to them.

captnjimbo writes:

Both of these restaurants are favorites but both expanded their seating without regard to parking. I don't blame residents for not approving of swale parking...even though I have done it. Buy adjoining property and make a parking lot.

Hey...anybody notice the spell check feature? Good!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features