A stormy session: Divided Marco Planning Board rejects stormwater management ordinance

Lisa Conley
Marco Eagle
Marco Island Public Works Director Tim Pinter presents an illicit discharge stormwater management ordinance  to the Planning Board on Friday, July 7. The ordinance failed 3-3.

The Marco Island Planning Board was divided on an illicit discharge stormwater management ordinance during its meeting Friday, with an ultimate tied vote of 3-3 that prevented the ordinance from passing.

In 2015 the city created a stormwater management program that had to adhere to a set of state-mandated requirements. Those requirements must be met within five years; should the city fail to meet them within that time frame, it will be subject to fines from the state.

One of the requirements is to implement an illicit discharge ordinance, which Public Works Director Tim Pinter presented to the board Friday.

Pinter began his presentation with an overview of the city's stormwater management program, and noted that the ordinance he was about to share with the board members should have been implemented when the program began back in 2015.

"This needed to be created in year one and we're in year three," he said. "So obviously you can see from doing the math, I'm two years behind schedule with this, and if we continue getting (further behind), I'm really going to have some problems with getting this thing completed ... by the end of the five years."

Heavy rains over the last few days have left standing water on several roads and driveways Wednesday, June 7, 2017 in Marco Island, Fla.

Pinter explained that the ordinance, which aims to prevent illicit discharge from entering the city's canals or swales, would apply to all residential properties on the island.

"Any building permit on the island is going to have to come through and submit ... a drainage study and a drainage plan...that shows any illicit draining from the property doesn't automatically go into the canals or swales without being treated," he said.

He also said Marco Island is the only entity is in the county that does not already have an illicit discharge ordinance in place. 

Vice-Chair Ed Issler had some concerns about the ordinance, the biggest being that it tries to tackle too many issues at once.

"This (ordinance) .. .is really complicated," he said. "There's so many issues in this ... that I think it's more dressing than meat," he said, borrowing an analogy Pinter had used earlier in the meeting.

Board member Ron Goldstein was also concerned that the ordinance doesn't tackle the right issues, namely the island's failing swales.

"I just don't think it achieves what we need it to achieve," he said.

Rob Kyle, 23, bikes through a flooded ditch on Tuesday, June 6, 2017, along Winterberry Drive on Marco Island. The heavy rain left patches of standing water along the streets on the island.

Pinter reiterated that the purpose of the ordinance is to prevent illicit discharge, not fix the swales. He also urged the board members to keep in mind that the ordinance is simply one small part of the city's overall stormwater management program.

"The big picture is the stormwater management plan island-wide," he said. "With 19 inches of rain at the beginning of June, every drainage system on the island was overcapacity by 3000 percent (and) we couldn't do anything about it."

He also explained that as of right now, his staff doesn't have the ability to do the kind of swale maintenance that Goldstein said he would like to see.

"There's 120 miles of roadway on Marco Island which means that there's (roughly) 240 miles of swales with a staff of four and one piece of equipment makes it a little hard to go out and do swale maintenance on a daily basis," Pinter said.

Chair Erik Brechnitz chimed in with another concern: how much it will cost homeowners to come into compliance with the ordinance.

"This is a typical example of a regulation that will not accomplish a whole lot but will be a tremendous cost to the people," he said.

Board member Joe Rola agreed and also noted that it would be difficult to track illicit discharges entering the city's water system and subsequently figure out who was responsible for them.

The board members mentioned other issues with the ordinance, including the broad definition of the term illicit discharge, the $250/day fine for violators and the requirement that current homes be retrofitted with illicit discharge drainage systems.

The motion to approve the ordinance failed with a tied vote of 3-3.

Planning Board's next meeting is 9 a.m. July 21 in the city council's chambers, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.