JANUARY 2022 NEWSLETTER
Posted by Greg Folley 5sc on January 31, 2022
FROM THE DESK OF COUNCILOR GREG FOLLEY
Friends & Supporters, Well, 2022 is here! Council held its first two meetings of the year on January 10 and 24. The agenda for both meetings was relatively light. Among the matters addressed were Councilor Irwin’s 10,000 Trees Initiative, a proposal for a citizen engagement tool and citizen survey, water quality, and further discussion about a possible rental registration ordinance.
10,000 Trees Initiative At our January 10 meeting, Councilor Irwin and David Leaser of the City Beautification Committee presented a proposal to establish a Forest Master Plan for Marco Island. The presentation highlighted that Marco Island has low tree density compared with the national average, and that having more trees on the Island would not only enhance scenic beauty but also substantially reduce rainwater runoff, energy costs and CO2 emissions. The proposal was that the Beautification Committee assess our current state by establishing an inventory of street trees and opportunities for improvement in tree plantings around our community. Next, the Committee would develop a non-binding plan for the city’s streets and green spaces, including programs and policies, and funding sources to increase tree density as appropriate to improve the beauty and quality of life on the Island. Council discussed this proposal and heard citizen concerns about plantings in swales and some of the statistics set forth in the presentation. Ultimately, Council agreed to ask the Beautification Committee to consider the pros and cons of such a proposal and develop a plan, if appropriate, for consideration by Council and the Community to enhance the beauty of the Island. Nothing at all was proposed or considered that would mandate any involuntary actions by any property owner, and with that understanding I supported the motion to refer this concept to the Committee for further consideration. No specific timeline was given to the Committee for its work.
New Marco Island App One of the City Manager’s performance goals for 2021-22 has been to develop a comprehensive citizen engagement strategy, including, specifically, a citizen survey of the city and its policies and services. At our meeting on June 7, 2021, staff presented options for a citizen survey. Council decided not to proceed with a survey at that time, noting that questions proposed for the survey appeared dated and not subject to customization. Also, there were concerns that non-Marco residents might be able to take the survey and that there weren’t sufficient safeguards concerning security. Given the feedback from Council, staff presented a two-pronged recommendation for soliciting community input at our January 24 meeting. The first was to invest in a civic engagement smart phone app utilized successfully by many cities for a regular push and pull of information, and the second is a citizen survey focused on gap analysis and the ability to compare results with other municipalities. Both prongs are relatively inexpensive, together costing about $25,000. The app will enable citizens to engage with the city through any smart phone, allowing them to report incidents or issues, including code violations and water/sewer issues, and to check on the status of other interactions with the city as well, such as permits, bill pay, etc. The will link to the current city website and will also enable the city to push notifications of emergencies or local events to subscribers. Council decided to move forward with this app by a 6-1 vote, and I voted with the majority. Council also decided to move forward with a citizen survey containing standard questions for comparability with other cities as well as more customized questions. After some debate, Council voted 4-3 to proceed with the survey (I voted with the majority on this issue as well). We expect the design of the app and the survey to be completed over the next several months, and to be presented to Council and the public in the late Spring or early Summer. If approved, the survey can be completed rapidly thereafter.
Water Quality Update Councilor Rola presented a detailed overview of water quality issues as he sees them at the January 24 meeting. Chair Crain of the Waterways Advisory Committee then presented some of his own thoughts as well as those of the Committee, which has been asked to thoroughly review Dr. Harper’s report on the condition of our waterways and make recommendations to Council for improvement. Chair Brechnitz stated after much discussion that Council will need to conduct a workshop based on the recommendations of the Waterways Committee and Dr. Harper’s report. Council agreed that such a meeting should be held in the coming months after the Committee has made its recommendations to Council.
Upcoming Special Meeting on Rentals At the behest of Councilor Blonna, Council on Jan. 10 once again discussed the desirability of a registration ordinance for short term rentals. Much discussion had taken place surrounding the issue last Fall, but Council at that time declined to take up the issue as no one seconded my motion to bring it up for consideration. Council sought direction from the City Attorney on whether the issue could be revisited in light of the prior discussion. He advised that the Council had taken no formal action since my motion had not been seconded. Therefore, the matter was ripe for further consideration. Council therefore discussed the matter further at our January 24 meeting, with councilors expressing firm opinions on both sides. On a vote of 4-3 (I voted with the majority), Council agreed to hold a public workshop on the issue at a special meeting to be held at 2pm on February 17 in Council chambers. I encourage all citizens concerned about short term rentals on the island to come to the meeting on that date and respectfully express their views.
South Beach Crosswalk Safety Many residents have bought concerns to my attention about the safety of the South Beach crosswalk, which crosses Collier near Swallow Avenue and leads to the County and MICA parking lots. Anyone who travels by that crosswalk, as many of my neighbors do several times daily, can see the safety issues presented by pedestrians and motorists who may not be on guard to the risks to pedestrians at that location, due in large part to a lack of warning and crossing lights. I raised my concerns with County Commissioner Rick LoCastro, and he moved quickly to get the county staff working on this issue, in conjunction with the Marco Island Public Works Department. The County is now in the process to design, permit and install flashing warning signals at this crosswalk, with a plan to have the project completed in the third quarter of this year. This project will dramatically reduce the danger at this intersection, and I am extremely pleased that together we are making this happen. I am grateful to Commissioner LoCastro for his partnership on this issue. He is doing an excellent job representing our City on the County Commission. We now have what looks to be a busy month in February, with two regularly scheduled meetings as well as a special workshop to deal with a potential rental registration ordinance. Thanks again for your continued support! Please like and follow my Facebook page for the latest updates. Take care and God bless!
Sincerely, Greg S. Folley 940 Cape Marco Dr, Unit 2006 Marco Island, FL 34145