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For some members of the Marco Island City Council, proposed changes to the land development code for group housing and assisted living facilities comes down to the question of whether the people want this use in the city.

The answer after last Monday’s City Council meeting was yes as the City Council has approved the first reading of an ordinance that amends the code, removing the density parameters of assisted living facilities and allows for conditional approval of facilities by a 5-2 vote.

“I would be inclined to support the position that there is a need on Marco Island,” Vice-Chair Charlette Roman said. “The Marco Islanders that reached out to me have expressed their interest in such a facility on Marco Island and I would also further that it is in a separate category. It is not strictly residential as we calculate everything in residential units here on Marco Island.”

More: Planning board opposes changes to land development code for assisted living facilities

More: Planning board delays decision on proposed assisted living facilities on Marco Island

The change in the land development code was brought forth by Bob Mulhere, who represented an assisted living facility project that wants to operate 80 units on 1.34 acres at the old Sanitasole property on Barfield Drive.

Under the current code, the project could not be developed because the density standards for group housing limits the number of units per acre and assisted living facilities are only permitted to operate in commercial zones C-3 and C-4. Disagreeing with what type of use assisted living facilities to constitute, Mulhere argued the need for an equivalency factor because the impacts are less for an assisted living facility than an independent unit.

The Planning Board had recommended denial of the ordinance by a 4-1 vote with some its members citing the impact it would have on other uses. City staff also recommended denial in its report to City Council.

Councilor Howard Reed, who cast one of the dissenting votes along with Councilor Victor Rios, said the code changes would increase density, which was not something residents wanted and was another attempt by a developer to game the system.
Reed also shared concerns with how approval of the ordinance could impact other types of group housing.

“This is actually contrary to our goal of protecting the rights of citizens to not live in an overly dense island,” Reed said.

Rios agreed with Reed’s points about the implications and pointed out support of ordinance would be in conflict with both recommendations made by the Planning Board and city staff.

“Why would anyone in their mind approve of this?” Rios said. “If we are saying that we trust our staff and we are giving the Planning Board the reigns for the future of this island for density and intensity, I don’t see how this council can approve this resolution.”

Councilor Larry Honig, however, disagreed and said the issue boiled down to the policy question of whether this was something citizens wanted.

“That’s not an increase in density,” Honig said. “That’s allowing citizens of Marco Island to live toward the end of their lives in dignity on the island where they have friends, they are members of organizations, people will come to visit them (and) they can maintain their social life, which all the medical professionals will tell you that is the most important thing in your older years after you see the doctor.”

Roman said in reviewing the Planning Board’s decision, it homed in on the belief that assisted living facilities could only be residential use. Roman mentioned four other uses assisted living facilities could be based on her time on the Collier County Planning Commission.

Chairman Jared Grifoni said that based on the status quo, the code prevents assisted living facilities because they cannot make a profit and returned to the question of whether this was something residents wanted.

“There are so many people on this island who could utilize a facility such as this or know someone that utilize a facility such as this,” Grifoni said. “As Mr. Mulhere might have mentioned, people will say why don’t we have one of these on Marco Island and when is going to occur? When is going to be developed because it is just a natural fit.”

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