Wrong advertisement forces Marco Council to restart ALF ordinance

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle
Bob Mulhere, vice president of Hole Montes, Inc., discusses proposed changes to the land development code that would conditionally allow assisted living facilities on Marco Island outside of C-3 and C-4 zones.

It must be football season because a false start has been called on the Marco Island City Council.

The wrong type of advertisement used prior to its last meeting means the Marco Island City Council will need to rehear the first reading of the ordinance amending the land development code to remove the density parameters for assisted living facilities and allow for conditional approval of certain facilities.

The need for restarting the process came up during the city’s Planning Board meeting where it was explained that the addition of language for conditional approval required a different type of advertisement.

“I know it sounds too much (like) bureaucracy but that’s the state law,” Purchasing and Risk Manager Lina Upham said.

More:Council supports changes LDC code change that would aid assisted living facility buildout

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 application sought to remove density parameters for assisted living facilities and with concerns about the evacuation of a facility on a barrier island, the ordinance also proposes approval of an evacuation plan by local public safety and emergency management officials.

Bob Mulhere, vice president of Holes Montes, represented the applicant, who has proposed developing an assisted living facility at the Sanitasole property.

Upham said the changes made to the ordinance about conditional use meant additional requirements needed to be met including an additional advertisement and larger print. Upham said the advertisement placed by the city was for "regular" LDC changes, which requires two hearings and placement of an advertisement in the legal section of a newspaper.   

Despite the planning board recommending denial by a 4-1 vote, the Marco Island City Council had approved the first reading during its Sept. 4 meeting by a 5-2 vote. The ordinance the council approved included updated language that included conditional approval for memory care units and assisted living units without kitchens.

The prevailing opinion on the council was that Marco Island residents would like to have an assisted living facility in the city but the code requirements inhibited businesses from being profitable.

Planning Board Chair Erik Brechnitz said his denial of the ordinance was not because he didn’t want assisted living but because he didn’t think the ordinance was the right pathway. Hearing the council’s comments, Brechnitz asked for suggestions from fellow board members because he believed that there should be some type of density restrictions attached.

“It has to be a number that doesn’t exclude every piece of property on Marco Island because it doesn’t make it commercially feasible,” Brechnitz said. “Then, the density is just like saying, ‘No, we don’t want assisted living,’ and that’s not what we heard from City Council.”

Dr. Ron Goldstein, however, differed in his view about the council wanting the Planning Board to find a way to make these projects feasible.

“I don’t see that they are looking for a pathway from us at all,” Goldstein said. “We said what we wanted to say. To me, it was a repudiation of our master plan, comprehensive plan."

Planning Board member Ed Issler recognized the councils position but noted that there was no mention of the impact to the comprehensive plan.

If the land development code changes went through, Issler said there would have to be major changes made to the comprehensive plan.

As an alternative, Issler proposed giving assisted living facilities a bonus number of units allowed on top of the 12 units per acre density allowed in residential areas.

With the Planning Board looking to investigate a density standard that might work, it recommended asking the council for another opportunity to vet the ordinance changes.