Before a standing-room-only crowd, Friday’s Planning Board public hearing was the longest in recent memory.
What started with hopes of resolving the question of amending Marco Island Marriott’s 2001 PUD ended by moving any solution to March 21.
The Marriott is seeking a height increase for a third tower on the west side of Collier Boulevard to modernize and upgrade the hotel, adding 84 rooms and a new restaurant. In addition, the request seeks changes to an eastside parking property to provide for those improvements.
Chairman Monte Lazarus asked board members to verify that their decisions would be based on the evidence and non-prejudicial, a step not usually taken at Planning Board hearings.
But it was a lack of information, not a preponderance of evidence, that stymied the board and pushed the issue to a later date.
Marriott’s General Manager Rick Medwedeff presented the board with a second plan for recreating the hotel’s parking property. The new plan was based on conversations with abutting neighbors and an effort to resolve conflicts, he said.
It nixed a parking garage in favor of four elevated tennis courts over covered parking. The new plan was recommended to the board by city staff. The elevated tennis courts were approved in the 2001 PUD, although residents said the provision was added to the original PUD without public input.
The new plan is made possible by reconfiguring 1,243 parking spaces. The option uses interconnection credits through the amended PUD, eliminates 30 spaces set aside for community parking, increases the number of compact car spots, reduces landscaping and mid-parking islands, and adds tandem valet parking.
Board member Frank Mulligan questioned whether the calculation for the number of spaces met the city’s Land Development Code even with the interconnection credit. He also asked why 109 parking spots were currently being used for beach furniture storage.
Medwedeff said 1,243 spaces would meet the needs of the hotel even after adding 84 rooms and a new restaurant.
“We have temporary trailers that would go away except the storage of beach furniture would have to stay,” he told the board.
Mulligan asked why a 20-foot high central plant had to be placed on the eastside property. Board member Irv Povlow called the plant humongous.
Medwedeff defending the decision, telling the board the central plant was the same height as the cooling tower originally placed on the eastside property. The plant also would be placed closer to the road and outside the line of sight for abutting neighbors, he said.
Board member Bill Trotter questioned the accuracy of height measurements for the proposed gulf-side tower. Although the new plan measured the height from the flood elevation, Trotter worried comparison measurements were made from ground level.
Reductions in setbacks and landscape buffers also concerned the board.
In public comment, neighbors complained about the hotel’s lack of rodent control, a promise of 12-ft. high parking lot lights that ended up much taller, noise and lights from the proposed elevated tennis courts, and numerous safety and quality of life issues.
Those supporting the hotel expansion pointed to the prosperity a modernized, luxury level hotel could bring to the community including increased tourism and business revenue in the summer months.
Board members felt too many questions were left unanswered in the second proposal.
They asked staff to return with more information on required parking calculations, light fixture heights, adjacent building height comparisons, buffer and setback requirements, safety and crosswalk issues, and plans to address abutters’ complaints.
The board also asked staff to consider what issues would arise if the Marriott’s construction and replacement of Smokehouse Bridge on Collier Boulevard should take place simultaneously.
During a break in the meeting, parking lot abutter Dale Bernhardt opined on the new proposal.
“I like proposal two better,” he said. “I would still like to see them honor the (original) PUD with no elevation on the east side.”