The Marco Island Planning Board is changing the way in which it approves site development plans, easing – and ideally shortening – the process for applicants.

The Planning Board met Friday morning in the City Council’s chambers and agreed to reduce the number of public hearings for standard site development plans from two to one. The board also recommended that council does not review standard plans.

Site plan with deviations, however, will appear before both the Planning Board members – who will recommend the project for approval or rejection – and the council members, who will have the ultimate say in whether or not the project moves forward.

After asking the staff some questions, mostly about the ordinance's terminology, the board unanimously approved the ordinance.

The Planning Board also discussed a site improvement plan for Marco Town Center. Brixmor Property Group, the owner of Town Center, plans on renovating the site to increase parking, add trees and other landscape elements, and enhance pedestrian and vehicular flow, Bob Mulhere, who represented Brixmore at the meeting, said.

“We’re excited about it and we hope you are, as well, because it ought to be really a nice project when it’s done,” he said. "And we’re anxious to get started. It’s been a long time to get to this point.”

Mulhere explained that the center currently has 533 parking spaces, but by re-striping and re-configuring some of the existing spaces, they’re able to add 20 more. They could have added twice that amount, he said, but instead the developer made a conscientious effort to include green landscaping, which the board has expressed a desire for in the past.

However, some board members thought the developer should add even more greenery than what it was proposing.

Planning Board member Ed Issler noted that 85 percent of the site is covered by an impervious surface. The city’s current code permits commercial sites to have 76 percent impervious surfaces, but since Marco Town Center was built in the '60s and was compliant with the code at the time, it's grandfathered in and doesn’t have to change to meet modern requirements ... that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t try though, Issler said.

“This redevelopment request is an opportunity for Brixmor to act as a great Marco Island champion and to represent the citizens and to do what needs to be done to bring this center into compliance with the land development code that exists today,” he said. “This redevelopment request is an opportunity for us to bring it into compliance with a number that I think is too high anyway for commercial.”

The board members also had some concerns about the project’s stormwater maintenance plan.

Although Mulhere said the proposed plan is an improvement over the site’s existing stromwater maintenance plan, the board questioned if it was compliant with state requirements. However, Tim Pinter, the city’s public works director, signed off on the project, Mulhere said. Unfortunately though, he wasn’t at the meeting to explain – or defend – his reasoning.

“I think we’re at a disadvantage with not having (Pinter) here since he reviewed it,” Mulhere said. “We’re moving forward in good faith with the recommendation for approval from staff. I recognize and respect that you have questions; I just think it’s a little bit unfair to not have (Pinter) here to speak on the issue of his review.”

The Planning Board members voted to continue the discussion at their next meeting, which is 9 a.m., April 6, in the community room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.


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