Council to collect business code compliance data

Steve Stefanides

This week, Marco Island City Council members had the opportunity to vote on a resolution instructing the city manager to proceed to ensure business compliance with city codes and regulations.

The Marco Island City Council will get serious about looking at parking and seating issues with businesses. The city manager is to report back in mid-June

That resolution was met with a somewhat timid response from the council.

“I see no need for this resolution, this is just a decision the city manager needs to make,” said council member Larry Sacher.

“We should be dealing with all businesses regarding our regulations. This should be a process moving forward,” said council member Amadeo Petricca, who has championed the need to ensure adherence to the codes. “Previous councils and administrations have failed to enforce these rules.”

City Manager Roger Hernstadt cautioned council that he didn’t want to direct staff and energy into this and then when they were the recipients of an orchestrated email campaign, would fail to follow through with their direction to him.

“This is a huge paradigm shift in how the city operates. Had this being done all along we wouldn’t need this type of Resolution, but it hasn’t,” said Hernstadt in response to council member Victor Rios’ inquiry of why the resolution was necessary.

“This is not as if 95 percent are within compliance and 5 percent are out of compliance,” said Hernstadt.

When Rios continued to press Hernstadt for his reasoning behind the resolution, Hernstadt was straightforward with his response.

“I don’t want us to proceed and then see a guest commentary in the paper, blaming the city manager for this,” said Hernstadt. “If you feel this is a community problem then let’s get it on the record and move forward.”

According to council member Bob Brown, it’s about follow-through on the part of the council.

“Part of the problem the manager has seen over the last year and half lies with us as a council not following through on tough issues,” said Brown, the council chairman. “Many times we left the city manager sitting on his own to deal with the after-effects of those issues. The press has enjoyed seeing us flip-flop on these issues, time over time.”

“We’ve looked at voluntary compliance, but that was a joke,” said Petricca. “If we don’t start somewhere it will never happen, whatever it takes let’s move forward and make a start.”

The motion to approve the resolution failed on a 5-2 vote with only Petricca and Batte voting in favor.

But a subsequent motion by council member Larry Honig to direct the manager to move forward to collect all of the relevant data on compliance and report back in June passed 7-0.

“My intent here is just to slow the process down a little. Once we have that information we may then look at an appropriate resolution at that time.”

Last month city council grappled with a request from the owners of the Town Center Plaza to enter into an agreement to make certain enhancements to their facilities to accommodate the completion of a lease that would allow for a popular Naples eatery to occupy a vacant unit within their complex.

A concern about parking and seating would dominate the debate, which would lead the council to reject a phased plan that had been approved by both the city staff and planning board.

Those plans had also run afoul of a number of other restaurant owners from throughout the island who wanted a “level playing field.”

As part of those discussions over the last several months, council members voiced concerns about overall adherence to parking regulations over the entire island.

In other business, council would also go on to approve a number of other items on their agenda.

• The annual street repaving program for 2016;

• The installation of Aquatic Habitats by Ocean Restoration in a pilot program to clean up water quality in a test canal;

• An agenda item to discuss the role of the code advisory committee at a future meeting.

Next city council meeting

The next meeting of the Marco Island City Council will be on April 18 at 5:30 p.m. in council chambers on Bald Eagle Drive.