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We need your input

As so often is the case, Planning Board meetings attract huge crowds and lots of citizen input when an issue directly affects them.

Right now, the Planning Board Chambers are basically void of Marco Island citizens while the Planning Board reviews and makes changes to the Marco Island Land Development Code (LDC). These hearings are very important for the future of our Island. If you care about the size, architecture, setbacks, heights, roof style, landscaping, or any other facet of our LDC, you should attend these Hearings and speak your thoughts.  We want to hear them!

The builders are there. And we can all imagine their position on many of the items we are reviewing and changing. But we, as a board, want to know what you think. If you cannot attend, please send us your suggestions and thoughts via email.  Otherwise, when it is all said and done, if you are not happy with the results, you have no one to blame but yourself.

The Land Development Code can be found on the city’s website. Chapter 30 is the most relevant to what we are discussing. In addition, you can find reference materials from the LDC Consultant on the city’s website. And if there is any other information you need, you can always contact the city staff for answers.

The Planning Board has official LDC Review Hearings on the 3rd (third) Friday of each month. If the regular agenda for the normal Planning Board meeting is “light” we will take up LDC review at the meeting on the first Friday of the month.

We look forward and really hope to hear from many, many of you. We know that there are a lot of good ideas and a lot of good opinions as to what will keep Marco Island a great, small town character city in which to live. Let us know how we can make it better!

Ed Issler, member, Marco Island Planning Board

Funding for Rookery Bay Reserve in jeopardy

Multiple news sources have recently reported that the White House is planning to eliminate federal funding for the 29 national estuarine research reserves, including our own Rookery Bay Reserve in Naples.

The challenge is clear. If you care about the Rookery Bay Reserve and what loss of federal funds means to you and our community, it is time to let your voice be heard as Congress moves forward to determine the federal budget.

Why should you care? Rookery Bay was designated as a national estuarine research reserve 39 years ago, as the outcome of a grass-roots campaign initiated by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, National Audubon Society and our local community.

The state of Florida, working in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has successfully managed this pristine estuary over nearly four decades, taking a nonregulatory approach and working directly with local communities and government to help ensure clean coastal waters to underpin a vibrant coastal economy.

The national network of 29 reserves, established more than 40 years ago, currently protects more than 1.3 million acres of the nation’s most pristine estuaries. Florida’s investment in the reserves is significant with three, including Rookery Bay, Apalachicola and St. Augustine.

Today, the 110,000-acre Rookery Bay Reserve has become a nationally recognized model for environmental education that has reached more than 30,000 local students since the year 2000; trained thousands of local professionals with credible science that informs decisions that influence the health of our coastal environment; used applied science to help solve local issues such as reducing pesticides in aerial spraying for mosquitoes, and trained 5,400 local landscapers on best management practices that save businesses money, while reducing the use of fertilizers and pesticides that can impact our local waters.

Ask any local sport-fishing guide who uses Rookery Bay and the Ten Thousand Islands and they will tell you that their clients travel from across the globe to experience world-class fishing available in the reserve. Tens of thousands of visitors experience the Rookery Bay Reserve through guided ecotours and boat rentals each year. To date, more than 180,000 people have visited the reserve’s Environmental Learning Center.

All of these services add to our quality of life in Southwest Florida. Thousands of local jobs in recreational boating and sport fishing, the marine industry and tourism are supported, and millions of dollars are generated each year from the 110,000 acres of our own reserve. Sustaining the environmental health of Rookery Bay and the Ten Thousand Islands, educating thousands of local students on the values of our coast, conducting relevant research that solves local problems, and informing our community’s decision-makers through credible science does not happen without funding and community support.

Loss of federal funds for Rookery Bay will result in the elimination of professional staff members who teach, conduct research and strive to keep our estuary in a healthy condition. Facilities will close and youth education programs that have changed lives in our community will no longer be available.

Take action now by sending your own message to our members of Congress. To learn how to send this important message, visit www.rookerybay. org.

Gary Lytton, executive director of Friends of Rookery Bay Inc.

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