MARCO ISLAND — Why boats are anchoring near the Esplanade or in Factory Bay is a question some residents want answered. On Friday, Marco Island’s Planning Board attempted to address their concerns.
A sailboat anchored in Smokehouse Bay may have a right to be there, said Lina Upham, community affairs planning and zoning technician, but is not permitted to be a live-aboard vessel. In fact, anchoring a live-aboard vessel is not permitted in any Marco Island waterway.
Confusion is exacerbated by definitions and jurisdictions. A live-aboard vessel is one that is used solely as a residence and not for navigation.
That means it has no engine or no means to move, Upham said.
It also could be owned by inhabitants who legally declare it to be a domicile or a stationary on-water business. They, too, fall under live-aboard status.
Boats capable of navigation, even if they have been moored for a period of time in the same place, do not automatically become live-aboard vessels.
There are only two exceptions to live-aboard locations in Marco’s waters, Upham explained. The first is a football field-sized area in Factory Bay designated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as a qualifying anchorage site. The other is within marinas.
State law prohibits Marco Island from regulating anchoring of non live-aboard vessels, Upham told Planning Board. These transient vessels often anchor in “safe harbors,” such as Smokehouse Bay, convenient to provisions and repairs and out of rough waters.
Marco can enforce sanitation regulations, safe navigation laws and noise ordinances, she said. It does not have the right to order transient vessels to be moved in a certain number of days.
Midtown and CRA funds
On the midtown plan, Joe Irvin presented a recap of discussions with past planning boards and city councils. To date, a preliminary plan has been drafted segmenting the midtown area into nine districts. Each sub-district offers opportunities for traffic control, parking, and development or redevelopment incentives, he said.
The midtown area includes Veteran’s Community Park, the Esplanade, Town Center and surrounding shopping plazas, East and West Elkcam circles and portions of Bald Eagle Drive to Rose (Marco River) Marina.
Using the city’s Comprehensive Plan for guidance, Irvin said the city hopes to enhance zoning language for land use within midtown. Future street improvements would include bike paths where possible. Parking would be located where it could do the most good, and alley right-of-ways would be improved for better use by businesses.
To move the process forward, Irvin proposed two public forums in late spring and summer for input on the midtown plan. Board members discouraged any meetings that fell outside the months seasonal residents were on the island.
The board also discussed using Community Redevelopment Area or CRA funds, a concept that was presented to the public in 2008 and rejected by city council. Board member Bill Trotter said the public was woefully misinformed about using CRA money, and at least one councilor he knew did not understand the benefits either.
Board members agreed that all facets of the midtown plan needed to be reviewed including the benefits and obligations of using CRA funds. However, they felt it was prudent to continue their conversation before public scrutiny.
The board voted 5-0 to recommend city council and planning board members move forward with discussions on the midtown plan including a review of all financing including CRA funds. Future public input would follow those discussions. Irv Povlow and Jack Patterson were absent from the meeting.
The next Planning Board meeting was scheduled for 9 a.m. on Friday, April 5, in the Community Room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.