Marco Island City Council: Parking plan denied for new restaurant

Body agrees to support local baseball program, approves canopies

Samantha Roesler
Correspondent
City Council discussed through a public hearing potential approval of a parking agreement for a new restaurant planned to be built on Bald Eagle Drive. The restaurant will have a 268-seat dining room and the petitioners felt that off-site parking was necessary to accommodate for all the customers.

Marco Island City Council met on May 2 to discuss the agreement around the Tommie Barfield baseball fields, along with the final decision on allowing boathouses and canopies. There was a two-hour long public hearing around a proposed off-site parking lot for a new restaurant on Bald Eagle Drive.

The interlocal agreement between Marco Island and the Collier County School District for the baseball fields at Tommie Barfield Elementary was discussed at the City Council meeting Monday night. The two parties signed an agreement in July of 2012 that allows the school district to have priority use of the field while the city is responsible for repairs and maintenance. The contract is now up for renegotiation.

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Marco Island currently spends around $30,000 annually for field maintenance.

“At this point, we feel that the money for the renovation, because we are kind of the middleman, it’s not our field and we probably don’t even use it, we think that should probably go to other agencies,” Director of Community Affairs Dan Smith said. “We just don’t want to be in the middle of that and we think our resources are better served in some other recreational programming or maintenance in a different direction.”

Councilor Rich Blonna feels that taxpayer dollars, which fund the field maintenance, could have a better use elsewhere.

“I'm very disappointed by the deal that we have with the Board of Education to be honest with you, the biggest chunk of our tax dollar goes to supporting the schools, we all pay into this,” Blonna said. “Some of us have children that go that school that use it, others like myself gladly pay that fee, but I don't think we really get much in return.”

Vice Chairman Jared Grifoni thinks it’s important to continue funding programs for the local students.

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“We've interceded on behalf of the youth of this island a number of times with respect to the school district and others because it's been tremendously necessary,” Grifoni said. “In the past, we’ve had sitting counselors go to school board meetings to trash families and schools on the island. And that's changed 180 degrees.”

Marco Island Academy Principal Melissa Scott spoke in front of council to share how this agreement impacts all children.

“We all had a childhood, and we need to think back on what made it important and it’s memories and moments,” Scott said. “Hearing what everyone is saying today, it’s compromise, it’s communication, it’s thinking back to what makes our childhood great.”

Council voted 7-0 in instructing staff to negotiate the best extension to the contract based on time, price and accessibility.

City Council discussed through a public hearing potential approval of a parking agreement for a new restaurant planned to be built on Bald Eagle Drive. The restaurant will have a 268-seat dining room and the petitioners felt that off-site parking was necessary to accommodate for all the customers. The application is for a total of 72 parking spaces, with 25 being at the restaurant itself, 12 adjacent to the restaurant and 30 at what is currently Marek’s Restaurant. The plan is for Marek to turn into an internal catering business for the new restaurant.

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Although the proposal seems to meet all 12 criteria items needed including pedestrian safety, no potential parking problems for neighboring properties and no negative change in character or quality of the nearby neighborhood, there were still concerns from council and residents regarding traffic.

A traffic study was performed from April 7-10 of this year to show the potential impacts that the parking lot could have on the one-laned road. A peak season adjustment factor of 1.66 was used to create more realistic data. Once the traffic counts were complete, the hired consultant projected the traffic volumes to the year 2024, with a projected 2% traffic growth rate per year. According to the study, by 2024 the level of service for the road will be a ‘C’, with the minimum grade needing to be a ‘D’.

“I’ve seen nothing but increased traffic, increased chaos to the point where it’s not safe to walk, it’s not safe to ride your bike, it’s overcrowded,” said 24-year-long Marco Island resident Barbara Findlay. “I think this proposal is stretching the limits of the criteria.”

Councilor Blonna expressed that he feels nine of the 12 criteria items are not met, including that he thinks this will change the character of the neighborhood.

“I really think the neighborhood will change because of the proposed parking agreements,” Blonna said. “They remove a historical restaurant (Marek’s), they increase foot traffic and this creates a back-and-forth traffic pattern that will go on all night with golf carts and cars.”

The motion to approve the parking agreement failed 6-1.

Since the parking lot proposal was not approved, the petitioners must comprise a new internal floor plan of their restaurant to accommodate less seats and determine how parking will be handled.

The final decision was made Monday night about the allowance for boat canopies to be used on the island. In 2000, City Council adopted an ordinance that prohibited boathouses, boat covers and similar structures.

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If residents want to have a canopy for their boat, they need to go through an approval process through the city. If someone wants to have an aluminum canopy, it will need to have a 155 mile an hour wind limit. Chairman Erik Brechnitz feels questioned whether it was worth the further inspections needed if aluminum canopies are allowed.

“If you limited it to canvas and vinyl, the need to have a lot of inspections would be somewhat limited, you wouldn’t have to worry about the 155 mile an hour limit,” Brechnitz said. “You know in Hurricane Irma 155 miles an hour wouldn’t have cut it. You would have had aluminum canopies all over the city.”

Council voted 7-0 to amend the proposed ordinance to allow only soft canopies and voted 7-0 to approve those type of canopies on the island with an approved permit and survey.