Planning Board discusses boat garages, parking and more

Lisa Conley; 239-213-5308

The Planning Board met Friday morning in the City Council’s chambers with a packed agenda that kept board members busy for just over three hours.

Cut in nautical garages

One of the key items of discussion at the meeting was a request for a Land Development Code (LDC) amendment that would allow homeowners to build a cut in nautical garage by obtaining a conditional use permit from the Planning Board or by going through a public hearing process.

An example of a cut in nautical garage provided by the applicant from the June 2015 Planning Board meeting. The board approved the applicant's project and passed an amendment at Friday's meeting that would allow homeowners to build a cut in nautical garage by obtaining a conditional use permit from the Planning Board or by going through a public hearing process.

The Planning Board approved a cut in nautical garage at its June 2015 meeting and since more and more residents are considering them as a storage option, city staff decided to standardize the application process through an LDC amendment.

The board members generally supported the amendment, but expressed concern about the inclusion of a ‘compatibility clause’ which required that the garages be similar in “size, mass and bulk” to adjacent properties.

“Why do we need to consider that?” chairman Irv Povlow asked. “What difference does it make? If they want to do it and it meets the rest of the code requirements … what’s the difference?”

But City Manager Roger Hernstadt explained that including the section about compatibility makes it easier for homeowners to understand exactly which parts of the city’s code they have to adhere to.

“For people who are trying to do things under the code, it makes it very difficult for them to look through the entire code to find every single thing that they have to be compatible with,” he said. “So when you put this type of language within a specific section … it really helps the applicant.”

City Manager Roger Hernstadt speaks to the Planning Board in this file photo. The board met Friday morning in the City Council's chambers.

Hernstadt also said the language gives the Planning Board and City Council discretion when approving projects, reminding board members of a recent – albeit unrelated – case in which a front yard pool was not considered to be compatible with the rest of the neighborhood, but – since it technically met the requirements of the city’s code – the board had to approve it.

The board members also debated whether homeowners should be allowed to have a cut in nautical garage in addition to a boat dock, and decided to prohibit homeowners from having both with the knowledge that the board can grant variances on a case-by-case basis.

Ultimately, the Planning Board approved the amendment provided that the city attorney “tighten up” the language of the compatibility clause. The members also decided to review the amendment in a year and make any changes they see fit.

Alley parking

Another key agenda item was a request for an LDC amendment that would change the off-site parking requirements for businesses, allowing the Planning Board to approve alley parking through a public hearing process.

Tami Scott, growth management staff liaison, explained that the amendment would fix a "glitch" in the current code, which does not permit project applicants to receive credit toward their project’s parking requirements if they develop alleys.

Cars line Bald Eagle Drive in Old Marco. Finding sufficient parking spaces is an issue that continues to bedevil the Marco Island community. The Marco Island City Council created an ad hoc parking solutions committee at its meeting Monday, March 20.

Hernstadt further explained that by making the applicant go through a public hearing process, the Planning Board maintains control and can make a decision based on the specifics of the situation because – as Scott said – not every alley is created equal.

“We’re trying to create a situation where we get a net gain of parking spots, not just transfer the problem around,” Hernstadt said. “We just want to be careful about allowing parking on public property to become a means for someone to expand their private development without having a clear understanding of the ramifications of that.”

After back-and-forthing regarding the percentage of parking credits an applicant should receive and how close the developed alley has to be to the business seeking credits, the board members ultimately approved the amendment and a subsequent site development plan in which Bargain Basket requested the use of five off-site parking spaces located in the alley behind its building.

In other business

The Fire-Rescue Department announced its plan to request temporary housing at the water plant until it can figure out the next step with regards to obtaining a new building for Station 51, which was irrevocably damaged after being struck by lightning.

Local attorney Patrick Neale

The Planning Board unanimously granted Rose Marina’s request for a time extension on a temporary use permit provided that the development clean up the construction site to make it “less of an eye sore.”

Board members also discussed a potential assisted living facility, reviewed the site development plan for the construction of an office building in an existing office park and the construction of a 2,000 square-foot modular building and granted an indefinite continuance of the Veterans Community Park hotel project’s hearing at the developer’s request.

The Planning Board’s next meeting is at 9 a.m. Nov. 18 in the City Council’s chambers, 51 Bald Eagle Drive. At that meeting the board members will review all preliminary findings of the LDC update process.