MARCO ISLAND — 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.