City Council on beautification, zoning, and evaluations
While much of the time, and most of the heat and noise, at the Aug. 16 City Council meeting was devoted to a second reading of proposed changes to the noise ordinance, there was a full slate of other business that the councilors considered.
The city’s Beautification Advisory Committee chair Shelli Connelly briefed the council on her group’s efforts, including Marco Nature Night, the Beautify Marco Island campaign, and being named a Tree City USA for the 11th year, as well as the annual Marco In Bloom contest. They are also working on initiatives such as adding public art to spaces such as utility boxes and beach access points, creating and placing 80 banners reading “Celebrate Life” around the city, and updating the committee’s website.
The Beautification Advisory Committee or BAC also created rack cards explaining the city’s fertilizer ordinance, which while they might seem to hurt beautification of the island short-term by discouraging islanders from improperly applying fertilizer to their property too close to the water or during summer months, will tend to improve the overall ecological health of the island and surrounding waters.
Responding to a request from the council, Connelly reported on the approximate costs for additional holiday lights along Marco streets and public spaces, as well as upgrading benches and bike racks at locations such as beach access points.
During the general public comment section of the agenda, Rick Popoff, longtime owner of Rick’s Island Salon, which he has operated on Marco since 1992, brought up an issue he is having which, he said, could prevent his salon from offering the makeup services which are an integral component of his “day spa” business model. Collier County says they cannot provide inspections, due to a mingling of makeup artists and tattoo parlors, and without the inspection, he will be unable to renew the license for that portion of the business.
The council restored the original zoning status of three properties along San Marco Blvd., which had been rezoned years ago, violating their deed restrictions. Despite losing a court case on appeal, the city had never rezoned the properties to allow them to be built upon. The property owner petitioned the city to correct the zoning, and the council agreed in a 7-0 vote.
The council approved a bridge loan to Hideaway Beach for $700,000 at an interest rate of 2.5 percent, awarded a $1.45 million contract for construction of the Sand Marco/Heathwood Drive intersection, and ratified the police union collective bargaining agreement, all by unanimous vote.
While there was some confusion about the format for the evaluations the council used to provide their evaluations for City Manager Mike McNees, their evaluations gave hope that after a long series of short tenures by city managers in the position, and two stints by Finance Director Gil Polanco in the role on an interim basis, the council has in McNees a manager it sees as a longterm prospect.
The council also voted unanimously to grant City Manager Mike McNees $12,000 per year as a housing allowance, which had become an issue when in a previous council meeting, McNees had requested permission to deviate from the stated requirements of his employment that mandate he live in the city.
Councilor Erik Brechnitz gave a shoutout to Polanco for his fiscal stewardship, noting that Marco Island’s municipal bonds come with an AAA rating. He said you can count on one hand, or maybe two, the number of cities in the country that enjoy such a stellar bond rating, “It speaks to the financial stability of our island.” Council approved new bonds for the rebuilding of Fire Station 50 and the bandshell and related improvements just commenced at Veterans’ Community Park.
Marco Island Fire Rescue Captain Leo Rodriguez was honored for 15 years of service to the city. McNees noted he is an EMT, a boat captain who is the principal operator of the fire department’s fire boat, a rescue diver, manager of the department’s marine operations, and an Army veteran.
Council will meet again on Sept. 7, a Tuesday meeting as Monday is Labor Day.