MARCO ISLAND — The City of Marco Island Planning Board meeting Friday morning didn’t attract much attention, especially compared to last month when the Marriott unveiled their expansion plans. The meeting barely achieved a quorum, with Chairman Jack Patterson away, Vice Chairman Bob Brown no longer on the board since his elevation or defection, as Planning Board member Monte Lazarus put it to City Council, and member Frank Mulligan out for medical reasons.
What might have been the “hot button” topic for the session, a discussion of diverting heavy truck traffic around the Smokehouse Bay Bridge, was put off pending the receipt of additional information, including the results previously gleaned from studies from a consultant and FDOT, although not until after a considerable amount of discussion. Public Works Director Tim Pinter did tell the board that FDOT standards for vehicular loads on the bridge are currently within standards, before Lazarus, as acting chairman, deferred the issue to a future meeting, most likely in October.
Planning Board member Bill Trotter said the DOT’s “bridge person” told him the bridges in the city limits are Marco’s responsibility, and the state inspection is only visual.
“What is the harm in putting load limits on that bridge until we can get that thing replaced?” he asked. “It’s kind of a preventive measure. What can we do to minimize the damage in the interim?”
“We can’t afford to have any casualties there,” said member Irv Povlow. “Let’s just do it.”
“I don’t know what ‘it’ is,” said Lazarus.
“To sign it now would be totally your decision, without any engineering background,” said Pinter.
City Councilors Amadeo and Larry Sacher rose from the audience to add to the discussion. Sacher pointed out Pinter had agreed that diverting heavy truck traffic would extend the life of the bridge, and asked for more information. Asked how long before construction begins on a new Smokehouse Bay Bridge, Sacher said, “as soon as the Messiah comes.”
Much of the talk at the Planning Board meeting was a followup to last month’s discussion of Tigertail Beach, which is a Collier County facility. The board discussed additional signage and lowering the public parking fee for non-county residents, with the aim of increasing public use of Tigertail, and thereby ease the burden at the island’s other beaches. Zoning Administrator Joe Irvin led the board through responses to 16 items regarding Tigertail Beach.
“This is a major issue for the county. They’ve got 260 parking spaces nobody is using,” said Trotter. A number of the items were deferred to other departments or governmental entities, or require further study. What was stated, with a brevity that seems to indicate finality, and reiterating comments made at last month’s Planning Board meeting by Collier County Director of Parks and Recreation Barry Williams, is that there is no plan to construct a pedestrian footbridge crossing over the lagoon at Tigertail Beach.
“A lagoon crossover will not be considered,” said the written response from Williams to questions concerning Tigertail Beach Park “improvements” replying to questions from City of Marco Island staff. The potential crossover had been spoken against at August’s meeting by environmentalists, including Nicole Johnson of the Conservancy and Nancy Payton of the Florida Wildlife Federation.
“This is very good news. I’m glad it was discussed and quickly dismissed,” said Payton, Southwest Florida field representative for the FWF, after Friday’s meeting. “This has been visited many times in the past. The county spent $200,000 in 2006 looking at Tigertail, including the crossover, and the conclusion it was not feasible environmentally or engineeringly, if that’s the correct word.”
Trotter expressed interest in the idea of a tram to shuttle beachgoers around the lagoon. Currently, he said, the two-mile roundtrip to the water’s edge, plus an additional trip during a beach visit for a bathroom stop, could end up with beachgoers having to walk over four miles to enjoy Tigertail Beach. The Sand Dollar spit, pointed out Lazarus, is as long as the main Marco beach, extending three to four miles.
Discussion continued on the development of parking in the city’s right of way, and Lina Upham of the Community Affairs Dept. spoke to the board about commercial barges being used for construction in city waters.
The Planning Board is scheduled to meet again on Sept. 20.