City Council signed a resolution revoking its status as co-applicant

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Marco Island's City Council voted 6-1 that the city will not be a co-applicant on any project involving Veterans Community Park, putting a stop to Small Brothers, LLC's proposed 153-room Hyatt hotel.

The decision followed a heated discussion regarding the city’s position as a co-applicant in the Veterans Community Park Planned Unit Development (PUD), which would have allowed Small Brothers to build a hotel near the park.

The city’s status as a co-applicant of the Veterans Community Park PUD has been in question since the Planning Board’s Sept. 2 meeting, at which City Manager Roger Hernsatdt signed the application on behalf of the city.

Various members of the public and even members of City Council have questioned Hernstadt’s authority to do so, arguing that the councilors should have been the ones to decide if the city wants to be a co-applicant.

“It was with great surprise that I read in the paper that Marco Island has been negotiating with a developer to build a gigantic hotel near the park – that requires city property in order to be constructed – without first bringing it up with City Council, which is legally in control of all of the city properties,” Chairman Larry Honig wrote in a Sept. 20 letter to the editor. “This is amazing, and it’s unacceptable.”

Residents have also argued that the hotel will negatively affect the quality of life on the island, increasing traffic, attracting a questionable clientele and furthering the city’s already severe parking problem.

“If there was a [petition] for people to sign asking, ‘Do you want the new hotel or [not]?’ the answer from most locals is not on their f***ing life do they want that hotel,” one resident said at the meeting. “I’m sorry; that’s the truth.”

But another resident argued on behalf of Small Brothers, noting that the developer has made changes to the project's design based on community feedback, and City Council should wait until those changes are formally presented to the Planning Board before it makes any decisions.

“I think we need to keep our options open,” he said. “I’m not really in favor of this, but I don’t want to squash my options and I want to keep my ears open.”

The councilors discussed a resolution that would withdraw the city as a co-applicant from the Veterans Community Park PUD and prohibit the city from being a co-applicant on any projects whatsoever.

Councilor Bob Brown re-iterated his sentiments from the last meeting, at which he said the council needs to make decisions based on the big picture, not current political issues.

“Forget about the Small Brothers, forget about the hotel, forget about everything at this point in time,” he said. “To try to pull the rug out from everything coming forward … is the wrong way of doing it. I’d much rather move forward and say, ‘I’m sorry, the folks on Marco Island just aren’t interested in this at this point in time … [and] the city’s not going to be a partner in this.’”

Brown said passing a resolution prohibiting the city from being a co-applicant on any project could come back to haunt them in the future with projects that residents do want.

The council ultimately passed a version of the resolution 4-3, with councilors Brown, Joe Batte and Charlette Roman dissenting. The councilors then decided that the city will not be a co-applicant on any project involving Veterans Community Park.

Patrick Neale, representative of Small Brothers, LLC, said the City Council’s decision has forced his clients to re-evaluate their plans.

“The original plan that they had put forth to partner with the city … is off the table. So my clients are now reviewing what their options are at this point,” he said, noting that the property is still zoned for commercial development. “We really don’t have any application going forward at this time.”

City Council’s next meeting is 5:30 p.m. Feb. 6 in the community room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.

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