Referendum may stand in the way of update to Veterans' Park master plan

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle
Veterans Community Park.

A referendum may stand in the way of the city of Marco Island making any changes to the Veterans Community Park master plan.

The city of Marco Island held a discussion forum Wednesday evening at Mackle Park to solicit input from the public about what it envisioned for the park, but one member of the community questioned the need to do so because the city had already approved of a plan in 2009.

Ed Issler, who was part of the Veterans Community Park Ad-Hoc Advisory Committee, took issue with the city potentially moving in a different direction after collecting all the input it did and spending close to $100,000 to develop the 2009 master plan.

“All these concepts went through and were vetted with 100 or 1,000 times the number of people that are in this meeting,” Issler said. “It was vetted over a one year period of time over and over and over again.”

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The desire to update the park’s master plan has been in the works for a few years after the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee recommended the city hire a design firm to do so in 2016,

Samantha Malloy, manager of Parks, Culture and Recreation, said there have been a number of changes to the park since the master plan was approved, which was why the city was seeking feedback on a new master plan.

“If we talk about everything that was talked about in 2009, I think that’s going to take us back,” Malloy said. “We want to move forward. We want to make something actually happen.”

While some residents appreciated Issler’s comments, others noted that Marco Island’s demographics had changed since 2009 evidenced by the number of families with children.

James Pankonin, a landscape architect with Kimley-Horn and Associates that worked on the 2009 master plan, said he expected the process to take 5-6 months, which would include multiple opportunities for the public to provide feedback as the plan makes it way to the City Council for approval.

Pankonin also noted that an update of the master plan may not veer too far from the 2009 plan if the current input is similar to that given in 2009. The point was to give residents a voice in the present.

But for Issler, he noted the irony of having Wednesday’s meeting in the community center that was approved by voters that were counting on Veterans Community Park developing as outlined in the 2009 master plan.

Issler said he and a group of residents committed to the 2009 master plan would be taking a referendum package from the city clerk to put a question on the ballot on whether the city should continue with the master plan it already has.

“We are convinced we will easily get the signatures to bring it to City Council,” Issler said. “We’re convinced we’ll have the largest voting margin in favor of that question when City Council puts it on the ballot.”

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