Agenda dilemma: Beach Advisory Committee looks at issues not including sea level rise

Lance Shearer

Marco Island’s Beach and Coastal Resources Advisory Committee met Wednesday in City Council chambers, and the most noteworthy topic was the one they didn’t cover.

The committee was scheduled to hear a presentation on “Planning for Sea Level Rise” by Dr. Ned Murray, coordinated by Audubon of the Western Everglades, but that didn’t happen. Or maybe it wasn’t.

A notice went out, indicating that not only city officials, but members of the Board of County Commissioners might attend, but Wednesday morning, the item was not on the printed agenda, and no presentation was made.

Staff liaison Daniel Smith discusses beach signage. The Marco Island Beach and Coastal Resources Advisory Committee met Wednesday morning in the city council chambers.

“City staff removed it,” said committee chair Ruth McCann, reached by telephone after the meeting. “Hopefully, we’ll hear it soon.”

According to City Clerk Laura Litzan, the item should not have been up for discussion, and a member of the committee put it on the agenda “without ever telling anyone. This was not handled through the city. We were the last to know.”

Dealing with such issues, said Litzan, needs to follow a disciplined approach, with the City Council developing a strategic plan, which then is fleshed out in a comprehensive plan, and then assigned to various committees for study. She did not expect the sea level rise presentation to be on the agenda for the Beach Committee at the next meeting, or any time soon.

MIPD Officer Clayton Smith reports on the city's beach patrol. The Marco Island Beach and Coastal Resources Advisory Committee met Wednesday morning in the city council chambers.

“I was the person who invited the sea level guests” to speak, said committee vice chair Maria Lamb. “I’m trying to increase participation in a committee where very few people ever show up. The claim (from city staff) is that anything we do has to be in the minutes in advance, and to be discussed in a meeting. It would have been a nice win-win for the city.”

A somewhat related point from Community Development Director Daniel Smith, staff liaison to the Beach Committee, brought out that “we’ve got committees that overlap,” which rings true when one considers the city has advisory committees dealing with waterways, beautification, and parks and recreation in addition to the Beach and Coastal Resources Advisory Committee.

The Beach Committee did deal with issues including sea turtle protection, with letters going out to beachfront condominiums as nesting season approaches, stressing the importance – and requirement – of not shining lights on the beach that can disorient mothers and hatchlings, as well as the ordinance banning plastic straws on the beach, and finding a replacement for former city environmental specialist Chadd Chustz, who apparently was let go by former City Manager Lee Niblock, said McCann, before Niblock himself was terminated.

The committee heard a report on the MIPD beach patrol from officer Clayton Smith, who said he had patrolled “mostly at night,” and was dealing with approximately “100 kids a night,” whom he would eventually kick off late at night, after having clean up the majority of their trash.

Chair Ruth McCann displays a "Do Not Disturb" sign to shield sea turtles from lights. The Marco Island Beach and Coastal Resources Advisory Committee met Wednesday morning in the city council chambers.

He had issued 19 warnings for glass containers and one for bike riding, along with eight parking tickets, said Smith, adding that both the department’s ATVs are currently down for repairs. Clayton had received multiple complaints about anglers fishing from the beach, although it is not illegal, and one woman had to have a large “tarpon hook” removed.

“On a good weekend, you’ll have 20 to 30 guys point to point” fishing, he said, some with four to six rods apiece.

The committee discussed the new “Please do not smoke” signs being erected at the beach, which look like requirements, but are really only suggestions, and heard a presentation from member Judy Novak on revitalizing the city’s Beach Stewardship program.

They also discussed their own personnel. The seven-member group was down to five; member Robert Eastman was sick, said McCann, but member Michael Curiale, having missed at least three meetings, is subject to replacement.

The committee went over upcoming events, including beach cleanups, with the next one scheduled for the morning of Saturday, May 5, when participants will meet at the southernmost beach access point.

The committee’s next meeting will take place on Wednesday, May 16.