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The approval of site development plans on Marco Island will remain in the hands of the City Council for a little bit longer.

The Marco Island City Council has shot down the first reading of an ordinance that would transfer the approval of site development plans to the planning board and effectively speed up the approval process by a 4-3 vote.

Vice-chair Charlette Roman said consideration for the ordinance change came forward after the city hired Lee Niblock as its city manager, but with conditions changing, it wasn’t the appropriate time to move forward with the ordinance.

“There’s no permanent city manager in place and our acting city manager says that planning and zoning is overwhelmed and I know many citizens that I’ve helped with their issues with planning and zoning that have waited weeks if not a month to have a phone call returned,” Roman said.

Both the current and proposed ordinance contain the same level of staff involvement, but the major change would be that the planning board would be the final stop in the approval process.

Councilor Howard Reed suggested the council put off changes to oversight until the city put a manager into place and the proper controls were established in the building department.

Reed showed the council an example of a permit that was approved construction of a cabana with a trellis addition in which the slides and images showed the construction of a guest house, which is not allowed on Marco Island for lots less than one acre without a conditional use permit.

“It is complete with a kitchen, a sofa bed, tv, water heater, air conditioner and all the amenities of a home,” Reed said.

Reed noted that the staff in the building department responsible for the project he referenced were gone, but he didn’t have the confidence yet that mistakes would be caught.

Purchasing and Risk Manager Lena Upham, however, said the ordinance change would not have prevented the mistake because residential reviews do not come before the planning board or City Council for review. 

Reed said his point was that the checks and balances needed to be in place internally so that the approval process is not slowed down.

Chairman Jared Grifoni, who voted for approval along with Councilors Bob Brown and Larry Honig, said that the number one complaint from the public was delays in the process and the ordinance streamlines the approval process without imposing any more work on staff.

“I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t want to move forward with it,” Grifoni said. “It still offers the protection to the citizens, the notice to the citizens, reduces potential delays, doesn’t add any more work to the staff and in fact would probably end up reducing it and certainly reduce nitpicking of projects that meet the code.”

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