Battle of wills: Marco and County still in standoff regarding Goodland Drive repair

Lisa Conley; 239-213-5308

The Marco Island City Council met Monday night and discussed sending a letter to the Collier County Board of Commissioners regarding the ownership and repair of Goodland Drive.

The Marco Island City Council met Monday, Feb. 6 in the community room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive. The council's next meeting is 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21 in observation of President's Day that Monday, during which all city offices will be closed.

The city and the county have been at odds over the road for months now, with the main source of disagreement stemming from differing opinions on the extent of repairs needed; city officials believe that maintaining the road can be accomplished by a resurfacing project, which would cost approximately $800,000, while Collier County officials and Goodland residents believe that the proper solution is an elevated roadway, the cost of which would be in the neighborhood of $4.5 million.

Chairman Larry Honig provided two different versions of a letter to send to the county commissioners; the first version included a myriad of stipulations and directives regarding the ownership and repair of the road, while the second took a softer approach and included just a simple overview of the problem and its potential solutions.

“The back and forth letter battle can continue for ages until you just sit down in a room and talk and reach a mutually beneficial solution,” Vice Chair Jared Grifoni said. “We have to move forward. We have to find a solution that works for the city and our taxpayers and the county and their taxpayers.”

An SUV drives through flooding on Goodland Road in Goodland on June 6, 2016, that was caused by heavy rain as a result of Tropical Storm Colin.

Councilor Howard Reed expressed “strong support” for the second letter, although he said his ideal solution would be to not take any action at all until the council appoints a new city manager (City Manager Roger Hernstadt resigned earlier in the meeting. See “Marco Island city manager resigns,” page 4A.)

“This letter is the next step in the back and forth between us and the county. It is the next step toward a face-to-face negotiation and I think … that negotiation needs to be with the new city manager,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair to an interim city manager to put that person in a position to negotiate something that’s been going on for literally over a decade. We’ve waited this long; we can wait another few months.”

But Honig said the council needs to make a decision because the county is waiting for a response to its most recent letter, and the people of Goodland are waiting for a solution.

“We have citizens in Goodland who don’t have a solution and they are looking to the county and to us,” he said, “and I think we need to do something. Now.”

Most of the councilors favored sending the commissioners the second letter, which gave the county two options: either the city will retain control of the road – and repair it in the spring as part of its annual resurfacing program – or it will cede control of the road to Collier County and end its claims to the $2 million being withheld by the county, provided that that $2 million is the first source of funding for all expenses associated with Goodland Drive.

The council agreed to re-visit the issue at its next meeting, at which Honig will present modified versions of the letters based on councilor feedback.

In other business

The council passed an ordinance establishing a year-long moratorium on the transfer of density credits.

Councilor Bob Brown reiterated his sentiments from the past several meetings at which the moratorium was discussed.

“We’re out of line trying to do this. We’re reacting to a political situation,” he said, referring to the now defunct Veterans Community Park hotel project. "I don't think we're helping the city in the long run at all."

But the other councilors said the moratorium doesn't necessarily mean that the city will permanently ban the transfer of density credits; instead, it simply gives the Planning Board time to asses the ordinance without fear of a project application involving density credit transfers disrupting the process.

The council passed the moratorium 4-3, with councilors Brown, Honig and Joe Batte dissenting.

City Council's next meeting is 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21, in the community room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive. The meeting is on a Tuesday in observation of President's Day that Monday, during which all city offices will be closed.