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After dealing with a number of controversial projects over the past year, the city of Marco Island is moving toward requiring neighborhood information meetings for high-impact development projects that ask for changes to the land development code and commercial site development plans.

The city’s planning board has recommended approval of ordinances that would increase these requirements as well as requiring signage notifying the public ahead of any public hearing before the city.

Under the proposed ordinances, the neighborhood information meeting would have to take place at least 30 days before a public hearing with the planning board. Additionally, notice of the meeting would also be required to be published in a local newspaper and courtesy notices would need to be sent to properties within 300 feet.

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The neighborhood meeting is broadly defined as a meeting where all of the public is allowed to attend.

“Collier County does it because during those meetings, there were suggestions or agreements between the neighbors and developer and when he moves forward, he doesn’t follow them,” Director of Community Affairs Dan Smith said. “It’s more of a protection to make sure the developer is following what he’s saying.”

While city staff would determine which projects are of high-impact, City Attorney Paul Gougelman said the planning board could also chime in and require a neighborhood information meeting if it chooses.

Gougelman said the requirement of a meeting would also serve to help those that don’t understand the project before a public hearing takes place.

With the planning board and City Council hearing a number of contentious topics over the past few years, board member Joe Rola asked whether there should just be a requirement for all projects to have a neighborhood meeting.

Smith said the intent to require meetings was for projects like the assisted living facility proposal across from city hall and ones where neighborhoods could be adversely impacted.

For site development plans, board member Jason Bailey said he disagreed with requiring a property owner to hold a meeting if he or she was building something within the existing code.

Bailey said that there should be specific requirements that would trigger the meeting, such as deviations from the code, variances or a mixed-use project.

With others in agreement, Bailey's motion with the site development plan requirements passed by a 6-1 vote. 

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