Council won't budge on vacant-lot assessments

Steve Stefanides

On Monday evening the Marco Island City Council wrestled with the question of "do we or don't we," as it once again took up the issue of several issues that have been heavily debated over the last several months.

Vacant lot assessment

The issue of levying a special assessment on vacant lots in non-STRP districts was once again discussed. When the upgrades to the wastewater plant were completed as part of the STRP program to handle build-out on the island and provide sewer to homes on septic tanks, vacant lots were assessed for the cost of making those improvements to the plant. (The existing outdated plant was basically replaced.) Vacant lot owners in areas around the island outside the STRP districts were never assessed in the same manner, hence the disparity seen by several council members.

The room was again flooded with residents in red shirts from Hideaway Beach, although others were also present to speak on the issue that had initially been defeated, then passed, than reconsidered and now was up for discussion again.

The debate followed the same line as did previous discussions, but the votes were not there to again deal with the issue. For councilman Amadeo Petricca, it was simply an issue of fairness.

"Everyone should be on a level playing field," said Petricca.

After no support was seen for once again reconsidering the matter councilman Ken Honecker moved and Petricca seconded a motion to refund the money to those that had paid for that upgrade of the wastewater treatment facilities in an effort to bring "fairness" to the issue.

That vote was defeated 4-3, with Petricca, Honecker and Victor Rios voting in favor.

Seawall staging

In an effort to further discuss the amount of time a contractor may stage on a vacant lot for seawall construction , Petricca moved to reopen the issue for further discussion and possible amendment.

Petricca, looking for consistency on what he considered to be two conflicting ordinances, was seeking approval to limit the total time a contractor could spend on any vacant lot for building of panels at 145 days.

Council Chairman Larry Sacher said he believed in present ordinances and opposed any tinkering with them.

"Right now I think we've had smooth sailing with the present ordinances," said Sacher.

Councilman Bob Brown agreed with Sacher.

"In conversations with contractors, they already feel squeezed," said Brown.

With no support for his point or a motion to move forward, the item was dismissed.

Marco Walk parking

Parking has again reared its head, but this time not in an alleyway or in Olde Marco. It may impact the popular St. Patrick's Day celebration held at the popular south-end mall. Each year, all of the establishments in that area come together to support an island-wide celebration of the popular Irish tradition.

Due to the calculated loss of parking by the plaza's owner, there has been a rise in complaints about parking in the swales. The owner of the Marco Walk Plaza chose not to renegotiate a lease with an abutting lot owner for overflow parking as has been done in the past.

The special event permit has been held up by city staff due to safety and traffic issues and on Monday evening, Eric Phillips of Nacho Mamas came to council to ask for their consideration in the matter.

Sacher suggested that the plaza people should look at acquiring additional parking and a motion was moved by him and seconded by Petricca to support staff in their findings.

Council than agreed to pass the issue back to the manager, staff and business owners to find a solution.