Marco Island City Council Chair Larry Honig: 'This is government at its worst'

City staff told homeowner his cut-in nautical garage would be 'no problem'; council disagrees, puts hearing on hold until June 5

Lisa Conley; 239-213-5308
A Marco Island resident holds up a "Drain Our Swamp" sign during the April 3 Marco Island City Council meeting.

The Marco Island City Council met Monday night and hosted a quasi-judicial hearing for a conditional use permit for a seawall cut-in/nautical garage.

The city’s Land Development Code (LDC) currently does not allow cut-in nautical garages, so the Planning Board recommended that the code be changed to allow homeowners to build it by obtaining a conditional use permit or by going through a public hearing process; however, council rejected the change at its last meeting; which means that the homeowner’s request for a conditional use permit is “(no longer) feasible,” city staff explained.

Yet Craig Woodward, attorney for the applicant, said city staff had no problems with the project prior to this point.

“(My client) was told by the staff numerous times, ‘No problem. No problem.’ What you heard here is … contrary to what we heard before,” he said. He then referred to former Zoning Administrator Tami Scott’s report in which she found that the cut-in nautical garage was “compatible.”

A rendering of the proposed cut-in nautical garage.

Woodward then said that the project has come an incredibly long way for it to just now be brought into question.

“(My client) has been working his way through a lot of items,” he said, referring to a litany of permits, applications and other requirements, “with assurance from the city staff that everything was going to be fine. It seems to me that if everything isn’t going to be fine, you don’t submit an application, you don’t accept somebody’s $3,000 … the Planning Board doesn’t approve it and it doesn’t move forward.”

However, some councilors argued that, despite Woodward’s claims, the project was always dependent upon the council approving the LDC change.

“That’s the crux of the matter here,” councilor Charlette Roman said. “When that amendment came forward to council, it was not approved. That’s where your client is caught here,” she told Woodward.

Another rendering of the proposed cut-in nautical garage.

Woodward called the situation “a complete failure” because of the misdirection from city staff. Chair Larry Honig agreed.

“This is government at its worst. This is stunning. This is an individual’s private property, he’s got a use and,” he exhaled sharply, “wow.

“I am disappointed to be associated with a city government that conducts itself this way,” Honig continued. "This is not right.”

Councilor Howard Reed agreed.

“I would agree that … a serious error (has) occurred (and) there will be damages as a result,” he said.

He said he felt it was clear from the very beginning that the project was 100 percent contingent on an LDC change, and for that reason, the blame for the “serious error” lies with city staff who issued a permit before the LDC change was approved

“It’s clear to me that someone signed a permit and handed it over believing – I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt – believing that the change in the LDC was a done deal,” he said, “so this permit is going to be valid, so I’m going to sign it now, hand it to the contractor and then it turned out not to be true.”

The council decided to re-visit the issue at its June 5 meeting, which was amicable to all parties.