Planning Board approves fire-rescue station 51 design

John Osborne

The Marco Island Planning Board met Friday and unanimously approved a site-development plan for a new firehouse at 751 East Elkcam Circle.

The Marco Island Planning Board met Friday and unanimously approved a site-development plan for a new firehouse at 751 East Elkcam Circle.

The new fire-rescue station 51 would replace the old station built in the 1960s, which acting Planning and Zoning Manager Lina Upham termed “not functional.”

Jason Smalley, Marco Island planner, the new station would cover 9,000 square feet over two stories, and house five staff members during each shift.

“The new station was designed on short notice, but I think we got a good outcome,” Smalley said, adding that the new firehouse would adhere to current FEMA regulations in order to further reduce the risk of flooding.

If ultimately built, the new firehouse would sit on a lot that's smaller than the norm for commercial sites, Smalley said; therefore, the new station requires a few design offsets.

“The lot is smaller than what is generally platted for commercial sites, so that presented a little bit of a problem in making sure that we hit all of our marks and ensuring we build a station that will work for firefighters and paramedics,” he said. “The station itself is very compact, but the design has integrated everything the fire department has asked for. Everyone from the billing department to utilities has been involved in this site plan.”

For example, Smalley said, the smaller lot size requires offsets in perimeter plantings.

“Nine hundred linear feet of perimeter plantings (typically required for a lot this size) are not feasible here because one wall is at the zero lot line facing trees and another commercial site, so it’s difficult to get those buffers in there,” he said.

Additional landscaping breaks would be required so that firefighters could access their boats on an adjacent site and city employees could walk back and forth between the new station and the city’s utility department, Smalley said.

“We also would need to avoid canopy trees and use other trees instead so as to not scratch up the fire trucks,” he said. “That was another fire department request.”

Fire hoses sit coiled and ready for use in this file photo.

But it’s not all take and no give in the design process, Smalley added.

“To make up for those offsets, the designers were able to include an additional 20 percent of stormwater retention above the minimum requirement of a commercial site this size,” he said.

Planning Board member David Vergo seemed impressed with that detail.

“It looks like it’s a pretty elaborate water retention system on this particular project,” he said.

Vergo’s fellow Planning Board member Joe Rola summed up the system like this:

“In essence, it’s a closed-system storage, where it does a little filtration, then there’s a pipe going out from storage to the canal, then to the bay,” he said.

In the process of echoing some of Rola’s earlier concerns, Planning Board Chair Erik Brechnitz asked about the quality of the water discharged.

“So this will not decrease water quality?” he asked project engineer Wilson Garcia.

“That is correct,” Garcia said.

Now it's up to City Council to approve the fire-rescue station 51 site-development plan, and it needs to act quickly since a $250,000 state grant to offset design and engineering costs specifies a July 1 approval deadline.

In other action, the Planning Board directed staff to further examine conditional-use applications for nautical garages.

“That way, we have the opportunity to see if (nautical garages) are compatible with the lot and the neighborhood,” Brechnitz said. “We get the chance to weigh in on every particular application that occurs.”

Due to the hefty cost of nautical garages, $350,000 to $400,000 to build and upwards of $40,000 for design and engineering costs, Planning Board member Frank Mulligan said he didn’t think the board would be besieged with many requests to build nautical garages.

“The point is that it won’t be very common, and it would only allowed on new lots,” he said.

The Planning Board's next meeting is 9 a.m. June 16 in the City Council's chambers, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.