Planning Board eases parking requirements for restaurants

The new ordinance only applies to restaurants in shopping centers

Lisa Conley
Marco Eagle

The Marco Island Planning Board met Friday morning for the first time in two months, and, after some debate over the bi-monthly meeting schedule, quickly delved into a packed agenda.

Vehicles jockey for a parking spot at Marco Town Center. Finding sufficient parking spaces is an issue that continues to bedevil the Marco Island community.

Post-Irma permitting policies

The meeting began with a presentation from Raul Perez, the city’s chief building official, regarding post-Irma permitting policies and procedures. City Council voted last week to waive the permit requirements for some projects in order to expedite the repair process for citizens.

Perez explained that minor repairs do not require a permit, but homeowners do need to submit an affidavit, which is available on the city’s website. He also said that major repairs do still require a permit, and on the permit application contractors should note that it’s Irma related.

“We’ve asked contractors to put on their scope of work if it’s an Irma-related repair ... because those permits are getting prioritized over all the other ones,” he said.

More:Marco Island reflects on Hurricane Irma response, plans for future disasters

He also said the building department has been able to issue permits quickly, typically within 24 hours, because they haven’t received the surge of applications they were anticipating; however, he expects that to change.

“We’ve not had the influx of permitting hit us that we anticipated to hit us at this point in time,” he said. “I think a lot of that has to do with people waiting for their insurance companies to pay them (and) the availability of contractors.”

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) will be on the island for approximately 10 weeks to assist the building department and ensure that all contractors working on the island are licensed and insured.

For more information on permitting, visit the city’s website.

Parking changes for shopping centers

The Planning Board approved a change in the parking requirements for restaurants located in shopping centers and other multi-use commercial buildings.

Bob Mulhere, representative of Marco Town Center, said there have been multiple previous changes to the parking requirements that have essentially tied the hands of the shopping center’s owners, plus they don’t make much sense off paper.

Bob Mulhere

The proposed change would give restaurants exceeding 20 percent of the shopping center’s gross floor area the same parking requirements as stand alone restaurants, which is one parking space per four seats for; as it currently stands, restaurants in shopping centers have greater parking requirements.

“It’s an appropriate parking standard to apply to shopping centers on Marco given your freestanding restaurants,” Mulhere said.

Planning Board member Frank Mulligan, who voted against the ordinance, said he was worried about exacerbating the island’s preexisting parking problem.

“I think that this is just going to exacerbate the parking problems on the island,” he said. “I think the applicant came in good faith but for their own convenience so that they can get what they want in that mall without doing what the other people had to do in the other malls, and I don’t think that’s fair.”

More:Thumbs up for Marco Walk Shopping Center parking plan

Vice-Chair Ed Issler, who also voted against the change, agreed.

“I’m totally opposed to this,” he said. “It’s just increasing a problem that we already have.”

The ordinance passed 4-3, with Joe Rola also dissenting. 

Business owner frustrated by board

Jim Walker, owner of Walker's Marina, came before the board with a site improvement plan to construct a boat repair and administrative facility at his marina. Walker said he's tried to get this project off the ground for the better part of two years, but has constantly run into problems at the hands of the city. 

"This is a horrific process that I've been subject to," he said.

Walker said he's already been approved for a building permit and paid the $38,000 impact fee, plus his project does not require a conditional use permit or a variance, so he doesn't understand why it needs the board's approval at this point in time. 

"This is the most screwed up mess and disservice to the public that I've ever been a part of," he said. "We're regressing. I don't even know why we're here. This is well within the zoning. If our processes are this ridiculous, we're not going to have (any businesses) here. It's getting to the point of being utterly ridiculous."

Chair Erik Brechnitz said Walker needs to bring the issue before the City Council.

"You're asking the wrong people. This is a volunteer board, we're all here on our own time. The elected officials of this city ought to here what you say," he said. "I think your speech is relevant, it's moving, but you're talking to the wrong body. You should be talking to the City Council because this is the stuff they deal with and should deal with."

The board ultimately approved Walker's site development plan 6-1 with Issler dissenting, claiming the project should have been a PUD. 

In other business

The board also approved a temporary use permit for a temporary tent located on the grounds of the JW Marriott, a conditional use permit for a dental office on San Marco Road and a site improvement plan for the construction of a portico at Island Trends on Collier Boulevard.

Due to a staff scheduling conflict, the meeting had to end at noon, so the items the board was not able to address have been pushed to the next meeting. Planning Board’s next meeting is 9 a.m. Oct. 20 in the community room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.