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Although the City Council’s chambers were far from full during Friday's Planning Board meeting, the few members of the public who were in attendance had a lot to say about the board and the direction it’s taking Marco Island.

The first item on the board's agenda was an ordinance that would change the Land Development Code (LDC) in regard to site plan deviations; side yard encroachments; setback for screen enclosure/pool area on waterfront lots; garage doors; chain link fencing; and utility sheds.

Board member Joe Rola said he had concerns about the conditional uses portion of the code, even though it’s pre-existing section and not one of the proposed changes. As it is now, the conditional uses clause allows for the possibility of group care facilities in residential districts, which has been a contentious subject in the past.

In February, the board heard a proposal for an alcoholism and drug addiction rehabilitation facility located at 218 South Barfield Drive, the former location of Sanitasole, an upscale assisted living facility and adult day care. The board members voted 5-2 to reject the project, citing concerns about the facility’s clientele and the safety of the nearby school. The residents in attendance, many of whom spoke against the project, applauded the board’s decision, literally.

More: 'This is nothing we want on Marco Island': Planning Board rejects rehab center

It was this particular project that prompted Rola’s concerns about the code.

“We have to make up our mind about what we want in residential districts,” he said. “Unless of course there’s a Florida statute that says we have to allow this as a conditional use in a residential district.”

Bob Mulhere, who had represented the alcoholism and drug addiction rehabilitation facility, reminded the board that it can't make changes to the code without first advertising those changes.

“You can’t simply willy nilly add items,” he said. “When you’re changing actual uses, you’re affecting private property rights, and there are advertising requirements, and they’re substantial, and they should be.”

The board did not make any changes to the pre-existing conditional uses clause, and approved the LDC ordinance 5-2.

In other business

For months now the board members have been debating the definitions of impervious, pervious and permeable surfaces, and whether they should increase the pervious surface requirements for new homes, which would, they figured, essentially limit the size of them.

However, builders in the community have told the board that increasing the pervious surface requirements would not limit the size of homes; instead, it would just force them to build up rather than out, and having multi-level homes in a community with an aging population is far from ideal. Plus, taller homes would not preserve the small town feel of the island, which the board has repeatedly said is one of its primary goals.

More: Planning Board continues to grapple with LDC changes

Furthermore, some of the board members' own homes would likely be in violation of the requirement they're considering, Alex Parker, owner of AP Builders and former president of the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce, said.

"I would venture to say that you men are living in homes that would be in violation of the percentage that you're trying to pass," he said as members in the audience nodded their heads. "We're all here to help and encourage practicality and common sense. We love this island, we appreciate the beauty of this island, but we don't want to have our legs cut off in spite of it. We really are trying to make this work for everybody."

The board did not make any decision regarding pervious surface requirements for new homes. Its next meeting is 9 a.m. Jan. 19 in the community room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.

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