Sea wall solutions: committee discusses construction issue

Waterways committee meets to discuss construction issue





Controlling marine construction on vacant lots has been a vexing problem for Marco Island’s City Council.

In March, council approved new regulations limiting the use of vacant lots for sea wall staging to 100 days with a one-time, 45-day extension. Staging areas are used for the manufacture of sea wall panels and for housing heavy equipment while a neighboring sea wall is being repaired or replaced.

Council hoped the move would reduce the inconvenience of construction sites in residential neighborhoods and alleviate neighbor complaints. The revised ordinance inadvertently created a loophole, Lena Upham told the Waterways Advisory Committee on Thursday. Upham was the planning and zoning technician when the issue came before council.

The new regulation created an opportunity for contractors to extend their use of vacant lots rather then reduce the time they work on them, she explained. Upham addressed the committee hoping its members could offer a solution. Council intended for the use of a vacant lot to end after the allowable 145 days. However, within that period, a contractor is allowed to apply for a construction permit to do work on the sea wall of the staging lot.

The construction application could be approved at any time within the 145 days of staging, even on the last day, staff told the committee. Adding a construction permit allows work to continue on the lot for an additional 180 days with the possibility of one or more 90-day extensions. For the marine contractor, the benefits are substantial. Materials and equipment are already in place, and the contractor can negotiate concessions with the vacant lot’s owner in exchange for allowing the lot to be used for staging.

By piggybacking the permits, a vacant lot could become a manufacturing plant and heavy equipment storing area for 505 days. That would defeat the reasoning for limiting staging in the first place, staff said. Alex Garland of Garland & Garland Marine Construction in Naples told the waterways committee vacant lots are not permitted as staging area in Naples. But there is a difference, he said. Naples lots are larger and staging can be done on the seawall’s property.

On Oct. 7, after council reviewed the problem, it directed staff to look into reducing construction time for sea walls. One suggestion was to limit the number of days allowed for the construction to mirror the number of days allowed for staging. The combined time a vacant lot could be used would become 290 days.

On Nov. 1, the Planning Board questioned how the city could reduce construction time without impacting marine contractors. Planning Board members were concerned that unique and undue hardships might result from the reduction.

The board deferred discussion to the waterways committee. Some members of the committee, who are also marine contractors, questioned why their industry would be singled out when other contracting services were not. While homebuilding is underway, they said, contractors work within the full allowable period, creating unsightly lots during construction. Homebuilders also bring in large equipment for demolition, site preparation, concrete pouring and roof joist placement.

Bryan Milk, community affairs director, told the committee there was a difference. “Vacant lots are being used as parking lots,” he said, referring to marine construction. “The equipment is different. There’s debris, odors, noise, barges, cranes and the smell of diesel oil.” City Councilor Bob Brown told the committee pleasing all the people all the time may not be achievable.

“Lots are holding heavy equipment for large numbers of time [days] causing discord in neighborhoods,” he said. “Perception is we give carte blanche to sea wall contractors.”

Jim Timmerman of the committee questioned that perception. “In a year there have been seven complaints, and 90 percent were directed at one contractor,” he said. “Building a sea wall is a huge project. It doesn’t make sense to isolate the sea wall construction trade,” Peter Clapp of the committee agreed.

Concerned about fairness and safety during construction, the committee voted not to recommend creating a special provision for marine contractors that decreased construction time. “You’ve got to come up with some sort of solution,” City Councilor Amadeo Petricca admonished.

Brian Gilmore, a marine contractor and member of the committee, suggested one solution might be to allow a resting time between the end of the staging permit and the beginning of the construction permit. The committee voted to ask the Planning Board to look into the idea of placing a hiatus period between staging and construction on the same vacant lot. The motion passed 7-0.

In other business, the committee heard a presentation from Tabitha Stadler on restoring Rookery Bay’s estuary and received information from Franklin Lacy on a newly patented sea wall design that does not require tie backs or revetment.

The committee approved an additional meeting for 9 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 19, to review its mission statement and discuss docking facilities at the Esplanade.

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Comments » 5

mrz333 writes:

Comparing sea wall construction to another construction process is ludicrous. Sea wall contractors are using their strangle hold on the community to do everything they can to maximize profits no matter who it harms. This process is being singled out because the companies that profit from it are abusing the rights of neighboring property owners. The result is your home may be waterfront to a lengthy, ugly and disrupting process on a lot unrelated to the actual replacement instead of requiring contractors to stage on an approved commercial site and restricting the time for their on-site process.

Other types of large pre-cast projects are done all the time. Our city needs to even the playing field between the needs of property owners, business and the community in general. We should be open to other construction methods less demanding on the environment. The business is here no matter how much the contractors complain. They will adapt to a change in methods. Saying prices will skyrocket is a farce. Defining a new process then opening that process to companies off the island will keep prices down as will establishing stricter regulations based upon common sense and new technologies for the future not the antiquated practices of a few that keep us in the past.

Momface (Inactive) writes:


Very well presented, the question is will the city do what is right for the residents by examining, more closely, the business practices of these contractors?

Surely if 90% of the complaints is for one contractor, something is wrong and the city should make that contractor do what is required or shut him down.

Pursuit writes:

Maybe i am old fashioned but if one of my neighboring properties needed a sea wall re-placement I would do all I could to help them. These lot's are usually left in better shape after their use I don't consider it a big deal.
Why can contracter's take 18 to 24 mo to build a house which in fact is a noisy dirty job and the seawall guy's get picked apart
Live and let live

Momface (Inactive) writes:

It does not matter if it is a home builder or a sea wall builder. The respect that they show for their customers will reflect highly on what others think of them for future business. Poor business tactics is just not acceptable.

marcofriend writes:

in response to Pursuit:

Maybe i am old fashioned but if one of my neighboring properties needed a sea wall re-placement I would do all I could to help them. These lot's are usually left in better shape after their use I don't consider it a big deal.
Why can contracter's take 18 to 24 mo to build a house which in fact is a noisy dirty job and the seawall guy's get picked apart
Live and let live

You could not be more correct. Many people that complain either live on inland lots (where a contractor would not use an empty lot because they need water access), or they've already had their seawall repaired. We live on an island that has seawalls throughout and if we drive the contractors away to manufacturer elsewhere, we all pay a substantial increase when it comes to our own replacement.
We need to be sure contractors can not come back to the same area over and over, but to not allow them to use a lot for a few months to help us all control seawall replacement costs would be a travesty.
Hopefully we will all strive to be good neighbors and that means the contractors need to be sensitive to the neighborhood they are working in.

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