Parking plan refused for the new restaurant

Organization agrees to support local baseball program and approves awnings

Marco Island City Council met May 2 to discuss the Tommie Barfield baseball diamond deal, as well as the final decision to allow boathouses and awnings. There was a two-hour public hearing around a proposed off-site parking lot for a new restaurant on Bald Eagle Drive.

The interlocal agreement between Marco Island and the Collier County School District for the baseball fields at Tommie Barfield Elementary was discussed at the city council meeting Monday night. The two parties signed an agreement in July 2012 that allows the school district to have priority use of the land while the city is responsible for repairs and maintenance. The contract must now be renegotiated.

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Marco Island currently spends about $30,000 per year on field maintenance.

“At this point we think the money for the renovation, because we’re sort of a middleman, it’s not our field and we probably don’t even use it, we think it should probably go to other agencies,” the community manager said. Business Dan Smith said. “We just don’t want to be in the middle of this and believe our resources are better served in other recreation or maintenance programs in a different direction.”

Councilor Rich Blonna believes that taxpayers’ money, which funds the upkeep of the grounds, could be better spent elsewhere.

“I’m very disappointed with the deal we have with the Board of Education to be honest with you, most of our tax dollars go to support schools, we all contribute to that,” Blonna said. “Some of us have children who go to this school who use it, others like me willingly pay this fee, but I don’t think we really get much in return.”

Vice President Jared Grifoni thinks it’s important to continue funding programs for local students.

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“We have interceded on behalf of the young people of this island many times regarding the school district and others because it has been sorely needed,” Grifoni said. “In the past, sit-down counselors went to school board meetings to trash families and schools on the island. And it changed 180 degrees.

Melissa Scott, director of Marco Island Academy, spoke to the council to explain the impact of this agreement on all children.

“We all had a childhood, and we have to think back to what made it important and those are memories and moments,” Scott said. “Hearing what everyone is saying today is compromise, it’s communication, it’s rethinking what made our childhood great.”

The Board voted 7-0 asking staff to negotiate the best contract extension based on time, price and affordability.

City Council discussed in a public hearing the potential approval of a parking agreement for a new restaurant to be built on Bald Eagle Drive. The restaurant will have a 268-seat dining room and the petitioners felt that off-site parking was needed to accommodate all customers. The request is for a total of 72 parking spaces, including 25 at the restaurant itself, 12 adjacent to the restaurant and 30 at what is currently Marek’s Restaurant. The plan is for Marek to turn into an in-house catering business for the new restaurant.

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Although the proposal appears to meet all 12 necessary criteria, including pedestrian safety, no potential parking problems for neighboring properties, and no negative change in the character or quality of the nearby neighborhood, council and residents were still concerned about the circulation.

A traffic study was carried out from April 7-10 this year to show the potential impacts the car park could have on the single lane road. A peak season adjustment factor of 1.66 was used to create more realistic data. Once the traffic counts were completed, the hired consultant projected traffic volumes to 2024, with an expected traffic growth rate of 2% per year. According to the study, by 2024 the service level of the road will be a “C”, with the minimum grade to be a “D”.

“I haven’t seen anything but increased traffic, increased chaos to the point where it’s not safe to walk, it’s not safe to ride a bike, it’s overcrowded,” said Barbara Findlay, a 24-year-old Marco Island resident. “I think this proposal pushes the boundaries of the criteria.”

Councilor Blonna expressed that he feels nine of the 12 criteria are not met, including that he thinks it will change the character of the neighborhood.

“I really think the neighborhood is going to change because of the proposed parking agreements,” Blonna said. “They’re removing a historic restaurant (Marek’s), they’re increasing foot traffic which creates back and forth traffic that will continue all night with golf carts and cars.”

The motion to approve the parking agreement failed 6-1.

Since the parking proposal was not approved, petitioners need to figure out a new internal floor plan for their restaurant to accommodate fewer seats and determine how parking will be handled.

The final decision was made Monday evening on the allocation for boat canopies to be used on the island. In 2000, the city council passed an ordinance prohibiting boathouses, boat covers, and similar structures.

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If residents want to have an awning for their boat, they must go through an approval process by the city. If someone wants to have an aluminum awning, they will have to have a wind limit of 155 miles per hour. President Erik Brechnitz wonders if it was worth carrying out the necessary additional inspections if aluminum awnings are allowed.

“If you limited it to canvas and vinyl, the need to have a lot of inspections would be somewhat limited, you wouldn’t have to worry about the 155 mph limit,” Brechnitz said. “You know, in Hurricane Irma, 155 miles an hour wouldn’t have been enough. You would have had aluminum awnings all over town.

Council voted 7-0 to change the proposed ordinance to allow only soft awnings and voted 7-0 to approve these types of awnings on the island with an approved permit and survey.

About Walter Bartholomew

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