A new slate: Four of seven on planning board are new members

After being sworn in February, four newly appointed members join

Lance Shearer

The March 5 Marco Island Planning Board meeting had a light agenda, with only one item of new business for consideration, and no old business – but mostly new members.

The “new” business was actually the continuation of a process that has been ongoing for over a decade, determining what improvements to make at Veterans’ Community Park. After a presentation by landscape architect James Pankonin with Kimley-Horn and amicable discussion about parking, handicapped access and shielding nearby residents from lights, the board unanimously voted to approve the site development plan, as recommended by city staff, and send the proposal on to the City Council.

The newest feature of the planning board meeting was the makeup of the board. After being sworn in February, four newly appointed members – Larry Honig, Geoff Fahringer, Nanette Rivera, and W. Mike Hogan – joined chairman Jason Bailey and existing members Tom Swartz and David Vergo.

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Larry Honig was a new planning board member, and elected vice chairman, but is an old hand in Marco Island city government, having just served two terms on the Marco Island City Council. He works fulltime as a retail consultant through his firm Retail Hedge. Honig and his wife Lisa, an executive with the American Cancer Society, are 14-year residents of Marco Island, having relocated from South Carolina.

On City Council, Honig was known for lengthy, well-researched dissertations. “I am an analyst by training, and I enjoy digging into the details,” he said. Each planning board member is appointed by a city councilor, and Honig was appointed by Councilor Rich Blonna.

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Planning board member Geoff Fahringer was appointed by Councilor Becky Irwin. He and his wife Kathie have been Marco Island residents since 1995, after Geoff retired from the Syracuse, New York police department. Three years ago, he said, he retired from the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, but stays busy as a reserve officer. He trains emergency responders as rescue divers, owns Southwest Florida Public Safety Dive Academy, and works as a Realtor with Downing-Frye.

Fahringer served on the city’s waterways committee, is a board member of the Marco Cruise Club, and a former Rotary Club president.

“As we continue to move towards buildout, I feel that by far the most critical issue is that Marco Island must continue to follow a well-developed comprehensive plan,” he said. “We must continue to enforce strong guidelines, so we keep that unique Marco Island lifestyle.”

Planning board member Nanette Rivera was appointed by Councilor Joe Rola, himself a former planning board member. She is a retired executive from the pharma industry, having held positions with Abbott Labs, Johnson & Johnson, and Bristol-Myers Squibb, and, she said, her and her husband spending 50 percent of their time at their Marco Island home, purchased in 1999, over the past 10 years.

“Over the next 15-years we will see a transition from ‘building new’ to ‘redevelopment’ in an environment that is mostly built-out. Now, redevelopment will set the tone and we will see how well we maintain our Marco ‘small town character & charm.’ It’s a great time to live here.  In addition to the island’s comprehensive plan, she said, “also important to Marco is Dr. Harper’s upcoming water quality report, and how we as a community plan to address maintaining and restoring our water & natural habitats.”

Planning board member Mike Hogan, appointed by Councilor Greg Folley, is a United States Coast Guard veteran and retired as a Wall Street executive after 30 years. Originally from the Jersey Shore, he and his wife Lisa have been full-time Marco residents for three years. Along with the planning board, he also sits on the city’s audit advisory committee. Unlike the other new planning board members, whose terms run through January 2025, Hogan’s term expires at the end of January 2023.

“My military service and Wall Street career have trained me in planning,” he said. “Over the decades I have sat on multiple advisory committees. Critical issues for the planning board are future growth/development of our paradise community.”

The Planning Board is scheduled to meet again on March 19, although the second monthly meetings are sometimes subject to cancellation.

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