A storm of words: Planning Board fails to approve stormwater ordinance

Lance Shearer

Once again, the proposed stormwater management ordinance sparked lengthy, and at times contentious, debate during the Marco Island Planning Board’s meeting Friday morning, and once again it failed to win approval. 

Marco Island Planning Board member Joseph Rola speaks on the proposed stormwater ordinance. The board met Friday morning in the City Council chambers.

The board rejected the proposed City of Marco Island Stormwater Control Ordinance – which had been before the Planning Board at least twice previously without winning majority support, and had been sent back to the board by City Council after lengthy discussion there and likewise falling short on a 3-3 vote – with a 4-2 vote. Only Chairman Erik Brechntitz and board member Frank Mulligan voted for the ordinance as written.  

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Marco’s Public Works Director, Tim Pinter, defended the proposal, drawing the ire of Planning Board Vice-Chair Ed Issler, responding also to pressure to pass some measure to be in compliance with environmental mandates.  

“We need this ordinance to meet the requirements of the stormwater management program,” said Pinter. “This stops single family residents from discharging directly into waterways. We’re the only entity in the county that doesn’t have an ordinance.”

“We’re talking about the waters of Marco Island, our most valuable resource. I’m not going to be bullied,” said Issler, who is, he mentioned, a water resources engineer. “This ordinance as written puts a tremendous onus on single family homeowners. It would be very cheap to make swales into retention devices.” 

Public Works Director Tim Pinter spars with Marco Island Planning Board Vice-Chair Ed Issler about the proposed stormwater management ordinance. The board met Friday morning in the City Council chambers.

A proposal to loosen parking requirements “for the restaurants located in shopping centers and other multi-use commercial buildings” also failed, with a vote of 3-3 and board member Dick Adams absent. The theory was that in shopping centers, demand for restaurant parking comes at different times than demand for retail parking, so the parking spaces can do double duty, necessitating fewer spaces than a stand-alone facility of either type.  

More:Planning Board eases parking requirements for restaurants

“This cuts requirements in parking in half for anything over 2,000 square feet,” board member Joseph Rola said.

Bob Mulhere, representing Brixmor Property Group, the owner of Town Center, addresses the Marco Island Planning Board on parking issues. The board met Friday morning in the City Council chambers.

“Town Center has a ton of vacant space,” Issler said, but “this ordinance also affects Marco Walk,” actually decreasing requirements there by 25 parking spaces.

“We’ve all driven around and around there looking to park," he said, “we’ll look like fools if we send City Council an ordinance saying cut parking by 25 spaces at Marco Walk.” 

Mulligan objected, saying the proposal benefited only Town Center.

“My problem is we’re going to give (Town Center mall owner) Brixmor 211 spaces for nothing," he said.

Planner Bob Mulhere of Hole Montes, Inc., representing Brixmor Property Group, said the company is unable to lease vacant spaces at Town Center due to lack of parking to meet city requirements, and said the company is investing $5-6 million in the property.  

Brechnitz and member Ron Goldstein said they had not experienced parking problems at Town Center, with Brechnitz referencing numerous trips to Marco Island Brewery and Crazy Flamingo, drawing laughs from the rest of the board.

Board member David Vergo voted with them to approve, but Issler, Mulligan and Rola voted no, so the proposal failed on a 3-3 tie.  

With outgoing JW Marriott general manager Rick Medwedeff making what was probably his final appearance before the board, he won approval for temporary tents to be erected along the beach behind the hotel during the first quarter of next year, to accommodate large groups that would have been housed in their new meeting space, had it not been delayed one more time by Hurricane Irma.  

Items that required discussion after being moved off of the consent agenda quickly gained approval early in the meeting, including amending the city’s land development code relating to setbacks for screen enclosures and pool areas, fencing, land use-related petitions, and boat docking facilities.  

Planning Board's next meeting is 9 a.m. Nov. 17 in the community room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.