Seawalls and parking: Navigating the latest Planning Board meeting

Planning Board member Frank Mulligan questions city staff on variance issues during Friday’s meeting of Marco Island’s Planning Board. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

Planning Board member Frank Mulligan questions city staff on variance issues during Friday’s meeting of Marco Island’s Planning Board. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

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Faye Biles and Jim Timmerman have a discussion Friday prior to Marco Island’s Planning Board meeting. Timmerman, representing the Waterways Advisory Committee, spoke several times during the meeting. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

Faye Biles and Jim Timmerman have a discussion Friday prior to Marco Island’s Planning Board meeting. Timmerman, representing the Waterways Advisory Committee, spoke several times during the meeting. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

— Jim Timmerman made it easy for Marco Island’s Planning Board to step back Friday.

Questions surfaced as the board discussed regulating the amount of time needed for seawall construction and the city’s liability for barges operating within its limits. The board wanted answers. City staff offered to do more research.

Timmerman, representing the Waterways Advisory Committee, said he was confident his group could vet the issues and return recommendations to the board. Board members agreed.

The board faced a dilemma created by an ordinance passed on March 4 by Marco Island’s City Council. New regulations limit the staging on vacant lots for seawall construction or replacement to 100 days with a one-time, 45-day extension.

By city ordinance, all building permits allow 180 days with one or more 90-day extensions. Seawalls are not exempted from that ordinance.

The disparity prompted City Council on Oct. 7 to direct staff to look into reducing the time allowed for seawall building permits. Friday’s report came to the Planning Board as an initial step in that consideration.

Lena Upham, city planning and zoning technician, presented staff’s recommendation to reduce the duration of seawall building permits to coincide with the 100-day seawall staging requirement. One extension of 45-days would be permitted, she said.

Upham then presented a spreadsheet showing that in the city’s fiscal year 2013, 87 seawall permits were issued. Twenty-eight, or nearly one-third, required more that 181 days to complete.

Board members felt the number exceeding the allowable 180 days was significant, suggesting a duration reduction could result in a hardship for marine contractors.

“One-hundred days puts a lot of pressure on the contractors unnecessarily,” said board member Irv Povlow.

Monte Lazarus questioned changing an ordinance without substantial evidence and input from contractors. The board agreed no reasonable business would stretch out a project, nor would the city desire to be deluged with permit extensions.

When Timmerman expressed concern that the change was new to him, the board voted 4-2 to defer discussion. Charlette Roman was not at the meeting to vote.

The waterways committee will be asked to thoroughly examine the matter and obtain contractor input. Their report will return to Planning Board for public hearing on Dec. 20.

The board also deferred discussing barge regulations until its Dec. 20 meeting.

City Attorney Burt Saunders warned that regulating commercial vessels on navigable waters could be restricted by law. However, requiring proof of insurance to receive work permits within Marco Island would be allowed. The city is hoping to limit its liability in the event of an on-water accident.

Timmerman suggested the city require that it be a “named insured” for all commercial vessels working within city limits. State and Federal regulations do not require showing insurance.

“At this time, some operators may not have insurance. The city would want a sinking vessel removed, and the city would have to pay for it,” he said.

Timmerman agreed to take the discussion back to the waterways committee.

Right-of-way parking

Joe Irvin, zoning administrator, presented a draft ordinance permitting more parking in public right-of-ways.

Changes would allow businesses to request a variance to add right-of-way parking at the rear of their properties or on adjacent city-owned land. Currently, right-of-way parking is only available adjacent to a business’ front yard property line.

Those requesting additional parking may be required to improve alleys or other areas as part of the variance, Irvin said.

Planning Board member Bill Trotter cautioned that additional on-street parking could result in safety issues with cars backing up into traffic.

“My concern is not to open the gate too wide to on-street parking,” he said. “There is a lingering possibility to increase intensity of development.”

Despite Trotter’s objections, the board voted 5-1 to move the draft ordinance to City Council.

After the meeting, Irvin said he knew of no existing business or possible business venture requesting a change to parking regulations.

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