Mailbag: Letters from Bill Harris, Ken Honecker, George Karpman
Bill Harris: Code enforcement is a joke
Not often that I agree with councilor Honecker on anything, but it is time to kill Marco's rental ordinance. It's dividing the island and pitting homeowners against condos again. But some of the comments are hilarious, such as referencing the 'much improved' code department.
Every neighborhood on the island has code violations that are ignored by the city. We use grant money for the sidewalk widening projects. Those grants require ADA-compliance. The permits for driveway pavers, in most cases, indicates that pavers can run all the way to the street; an ADA violation. To Mr. Karpman: do you recall when the 'Group of 4' on this Council 'out of the blue' fired Jim Riviere? Haven't you read about councilor Batte's abuses of power? Are you not sick of the last minute sleight of hand reversals of this council?
How about the city government misleading the public into thinking the State Attorney and others were investigating the "illegal" release of "unapproved" police files? When the employee who released the files had been fired in July; yet the MIPD chief gave a 10 minute speech on Aug. 3 on the seriousness of this act and how the investigation continues. If the guilty party was fired, what are they investigating? We have 'plenty of money lying around;' our utility accounts have huge surpluses, yet our fees increase each year.
So, is this council so bad after all? Yes!
Ken Honecker: Rental conflict needs to end now
Vacation rentals have been a divisive issue on Marco Island, for years. Full and part-time residents feel that they are pitted against real estate investors, Realtors, property managers and the Chamber of Commerce. This conflict is tearing the Island apart and needs to end now.
Residents, who live next to vacation rentals, complain that they have lost the peaceful and quiet enjoyment of their properties. Real-estate investors claim it is their property right to rent any way they want. Business entities claim that without vacation rentals the Island would die. The solution boils down to if the city's current ordinances are adequate enough to deal with the problem vacation rentals.
Prior to 2015, Marco Island's code department was a joke. The former city council and city manager emphasized code "compliance." That meant no tickets or even records were kept if the property fixed the problem. This resulted in the "ground hog day effect," which meant problem rental properties were receiving daily/weekly complaints without fines or being flagged as nuisance properties.
Today, the police department is in total control of code enforcement. Software is being used to log all calls. The police are issuing warnings followed by tickets to both residents and renters alike. Our magistrates are hearing cases, on Marco Island, for those who choose to contest their tickets. Now, with a functioning code enforcement department, I feel confident that our current ordinances can control problem properties.
I also, agree with councilman Larry Honig that we need to review our current ordinances in regards to dwelling capacity and parking and make changes as needed. By taking this approach verses a whole new rental ordinance, Council will be focusing a laser beam on the main issues of noise, crowds and parking and will not be using a "sledgehammer to kill a fly."
Some people have forgotten that I voted against the rental ordinance on March 16. I stated then that our new noise ordinance along with our new magistrate system, should fix the problem rentals. I did not, nor could I bring back, the rental ordinance for reconsideration since I voted against it.
After the ordinance was amended to include condominiums two things occurred: 1. Emails poured in from condo owners wanting out of the ordinance; 2. A repeal committee was formed. At July 20 Council meeting, I foolishly thought I could bring peace back to the island by removing condos from the ordinance (i.e. returning back to March 16), which appeared to be the catalyst for the recent conflict. I was shocked by the public comments that I was somehow pulling an underhanded trick. I was equally amazed that after council members Victor Rios and Honig both made passionate pleas against the ordinance – neither of them made a motion to repeal it.
I did not want this ordinance back in March and I do not want it now. This island does not need to go through another conflict, like the STRP. That is why I have submitted a "white paper" for the Sept. 9 council meeting to repeal Ordinance 15-01 "Rental Housing Ordinance."
Kenneth E. Honecker
Marco Island City Councilor
There certainly has been a lot of recent negative letters to the editor pointed at our current city council. Are things on Marco Island really that bad? These negative letters have me thinking about the good old days on Marco Island.
Do you remember the Septic Tank Replacement Program (STRP)? I certainly do because it cost me $20,000! That council in 2005 passed the STRP by resolution so no one could use the charter ordinance repeal process.
Next, that council changed the council meeting rules to require that everyone had to sign-up to speak and moved public comment to the end of the meeting.
In 2008, when candidates ran to stop the STRP, the council commissioned a $50,000 report claiming that the condos would have to pay millions in higher utility fees if the STRP was stopped. This report was used to influence the election by pitting condos against homes.
Do you remember in 2004 when that council imposed a 6 percent electricity tax? That money was to be used to underground all the wires on Marco Island for hurricane readiness. That council undergrounded about half of Collier Boulevard and spent the rest of the money on other projects. If I recall correctly, it was two citizens, Mr. Honecker and Mr. Petricca who shamed the council in 2009 to repeal the tax since it was not being used for its intended purpose.
Do you remember when the previous council fired City Manager Steve Thompson in 2010? Out of the blue, four council members voted to fire Mr. Thompson and replace him with Jim Riviera who had no city management experience, but just happened to be at that particular council meeting to accept his new job. One of Mr. Riviera's first projects was to add surveillance cameras and voice recorders throughout City Hall.
After recalling previous city councils, maybe the current council is not that bad after all. Their mistake was attempting to approve a short-term rental ordinance implementing life saving fire and safety measures for the renters, preserving the quality of life for the residents living next door to mini hotels, and protecting the integrity of zoned family residences.
I applaud the council for bringing forth an ordinance that would assure safety for all property owners and renters on Marco Island.
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