Despite concerns, proposed hotel not expected to cost taxpayers

Several different committees discussed the project at their meetings last week

Lisa Conley; 239-213-5308

The City Council and several committees met last week and the development of Veterans Community Park proved to be a popular topic, primarily because a land developer has submitted a proposal to build a hotel near the park... and build on the park.

City Council

The City Council met last Monday and recognized three Marco Island schools for their outstanding academic achievements. The council also heard a presentation from the Beach Advisory Committee about trash on the beach. Read the full story online and in last Friday’s Eagle.

Trash talking at City Council

The council’s next meeting is at 5:30 p.m., Sept. 6 in the community room at 51 Bald Eagle Drive. The meeting is on a Tuesday in observation of Labor Day, during which all city offices will be closed.

Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee (PRAC)

PRAC met Aug. 16 and, once again, the focus was on the development of Veterans Community Park.

A land developer has recently announced plans to build a hotel on two parcels of land adjacent to the park and will develop the park as part of the project. A water feature, band shell and waterfront boardwalk are among the proposed additions to Veterans Community Park.

Plans for a new hotel near Veterans Community Park

At the meeting Marco Island resident Ed Issler expressed several concerns about the hotel and encouraged PRAC members to attend the Sept. 2 Planning Board meeting, which is when the developer will present his project.

“Please, please, please be proactive in this issue,” he said. “This project spells the end of Veterans Community Park as we know it.”

Committee member Carlos Portu disagreed. While he isn’t fully in favor of the project, he said, he isn’t fully against it either, noting that there’s always a tradeoff when it comes to development.

“Balancing reasonable growth along with improvements is always difficult,” he said. “We can’t always cry out when the city wants to spend money to improve a property and then also cry out when a developer wants a partnership where they gain some benefit and at the same time they pitch in money for a project we want.”

Chairman Gerald Swiacki emphasized that since the developer has not yet presented the proposal to the Planning Board, any discussion by the committee is simply conjecture.

PRAC’s next meeting is at 3 p.m., Sept. 20 in the City Council’s chambers, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.

Beach Advisory Committee (BchAC)

The Beach Advisory Committee met Aug. 17 and continued its discussion of plastic straws.

Vice-Chair Katie O’Hara said straws are one of the biggest beach pollutants, and while she’s happy that most of the beachfront restaurants and hotels have started using biodegradable straws, it’s still detrimental when they end up on the beach instead of in the garbage.

“We’ve definitely seen an improvement,” O’Hara said, “but we still have a lot of trash.”

A representative from the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort said the hotel has been compliant with switching to 100 percent biodegradable straws and it plans to be extra vigilant during the upcoming holiday weekend.

“We’re going to do everything we can to continue to make sure that we’re good partners,” he said. “This is as important to us as it is to you.”

He said the hotel is going to conduct its own daily and nightly beach clean-ups during Labor Day weekend when there’s going to be a large amount of guests at the hotel. He also said the Marriott plans on putting out extra trash cans on the beach during the day to encourage people to avoid littering.

At the meeting the committee scheduled a nighttime beach clean-up for South Beach the Tuesday after Labor Day. It also announced that the next beach stewardship training session is 9.a.m., Sept. 28 in the City Council’s chambers, 51 Bald Eagle Drive

The Beach Advisory Committee’s next meeting is at 9.a.m., Sept. 21 in the City Council’s chambers.

Planning Board

The Planning Board met Friday with what was originally a full agenda, but three of the advertised public hearings – including the controversial proposal for a hotel near Veterans Community Park – were pushed to the board’s next meeting, which is Sept. 2.

Issler attended the meeting and reiterated the concerns that he voiced to the PRAC. He also said that he had coordinated to have more than 100 people attend the meeting and voice their concerns about the project, as well, but he called off the charge when he learned that the hearing wouldn’t be until Sept. 2. He said he expects to have an even larger group for the next meeting.

The Planning Board members had concerns of their own; Bill Trotter said that he received two notices of the project as a homeowner, but neither one actually mentioned the hotel.

“We say that there’s no objectors,” he said, “well that could be because they don't understand what the issue is.”

Board member Charlette Roman was also concerned about the transfer of PUD from the park to the hotel. She said she was under the impression that the park’s PUDs were retired and therefore not available for transfer.

Other residents were concerned that, despite what the developer has said, the project will cost taxpayers money because documents submitted to the Planning Board show the city giving the developer $1 million; however, land use attorney Patrick Neale said taxpayers have no reason to fret because the $1 million is simply a loan.

The total cost of the proposed improvements to the park is approximately $3.2 million, he said. The city will loan the developer $250,000 a year for four years - totaling $1 million - to help mitigate that cost, he explained, but at the fifth year - once the hotel is open and making money - the developer will begin paying the city back.

"It's a little bit complex with some back and forthing [sic]," Neale said, "but at the end of the day the city will be out no money at all," aside from the $250,000 it's already allocated to the park in its fiscal year 2017 budget.

Neale also said if his clients sell the property, any remaining portion of the loan will be paid in full.

Veterans Community Park has been a prominent item of discussion since the end of summer when a hotel developer proposed to develop the park in exchange for the park's density/intensity credits. Here is an original rendering of the rejected 165-room hotel located at 580 Elkcam Circle and 870 Park Avenue, two parcels of land adjacent to Veterans Community Park.

The Planning Board’s next meeting is at 9 a.m., Sept. 2 in the City Council’s chambers, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.