JULY 2021 NEWSLETTER
Posted by Greg Folley 5sc on July 26, 2021
FROM THE DESK OF VICE CHAIR GREG FOLLEY
Friends & Supporters, The Council had only one day for meetings this month - July 19th. We held a three hour budget workshop, a visit with County Commissioner Rick LoCastro, and a lengthy regular meeting. Below are the highlights.
Rollback Millage Rate Approved The Council received a detailed budget proposal from each of the City departments. While no formal action will be taken until Fall, the Fiscal Year 2022 spending plan is coming into sharp focus. Specifically, revenues are pretty well locked in and the Council reviewed and approved the rollback millage rate for the fifth straight year. This assures city taxes for Marco Island residents will not increase, despite pronounced increases in property values. This is an achievement. It’s unusual for governments to work as hard as ours to avoid increasing the burden on individual taxpayers. The Council is unanimously in support of this policy.
Meeting with Commissioner Rick LoCastro The day’s second meeting was an update with District One County Commissioner Rick LoCastro. We’re fortunate to have the Commissioner as a resident of Marco Island, vigorously representing our interests in County government. Commissioner LoCastro discussed plans to clean up areas along the Jolley Bridge as construction on the new Yacht Club slips is completed. We also discussed plans to more effectively manage traffic at the Caxambas Park boat ramp. The Commissioner confirmed accessibility mats will be installed at South Beach in the Fall. Such mats have previously been in place at Tigertail and Vanderbilt beaches and, as with those, they will be maintained by the County. He commented that the mats are not only for wheelchairs, but also for parents with strollers or carts trying to get a smooth path out to the beach.
The Comprehensive Plan Work on the Comprehensive Plan has reached a major milestone. The Planning Board approved the latest revisions by a vote of 6-0, sending it on to the Council for approval and then finally to the State of Florida. Regarding resident feedback for the Comprehensive Plan, comments and correspondence have fallen into three broad categories: support for its natural and historical protections, concerns regarding timing and community involvement, and its implications for development. First, many residents (as well as Brad Cornell, Policy Director for the Audubon Society of the Western Everglades) cited with approval provisions of the Plan which extend protections for the wildlife on the island and for its unique historical and archaeological artifacts. I was pleased to receive these comments and agree these new provisions represent real progress in protecting our natural and historical heritage on Marco Island. Second, a number of commenters expressed that they felt the process was moving too quickly and without enough opportunity for community input. While I am sensitive to such concerns, I balance them against the recommendations of City staff and the Planning Board. The Plan has been well vetted, based on the summary of the events which led up to the Plan being on our agenda for approval and transmission to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity for their review process. Below is a summary of the meetings, town halls, and community outreach. Various Steering Committee meetings September 4, 2020 Planning Board meeting September 8, 2020 - Virtual Town Hall Meeting (85 attendees) September 21, 2021 City Council meeting Midsummer to early September 2020 - Online survey (1,365 responses) December 12, 2020 - In-person Town Hall Meeting (approximately 30+/-) January 22, 2021 Planning Board meeting March 19, 2021 Planning Board meeting March 30, 2021 - Virtual Town Hall Meeting (approximately 119 registered) March 31, 2021 City Council meeting April 23, 2021 Planning Board meeting April 29, 2021, City Council meeting Ongoing - Draft elements are on our website for review and comment. Given the extensive period of review and preparation, and given the extensive level of citizen participation and opportunity for input over the past year, I could not agree that this Plan was either rushed or compiled without very substantial input from the community. Last, many expressed concern that the Plan would mandate changes to the Land Development Code. In particular with regard to density, building height limitations, and provisions relating to affordable housing. I listened carefully to these concerns and questioned City staff about them. This Plan in no way adds or creates any additional density on the Island, and does nothing to change permitted building heights or the like. Members of the Planning Board and city staff assured me that this was the case, as did my own review of the applicable language. I also questioned City staff about the sections of the Plan speaking to affordable housing. While they assured me the Plan was not legally binding, I remained concerned about provisions which seem to mandate the City prefer affordable housing over other types of development on the Island. I question how affordable housing on Marco Island (as opposed to support for off Island alternatives) even makes sense given the realities of the real estate market here. I therefore moved to strike all language regarding affordable housing, except for the language encouraging us to coordinate with Collier County to help find affordable housing off island, for people working on Marco. In the same motion I also proposed to change all language that would place affirmative burdens on the City to more advisory language, which would encourage the City to consider items as appropriate without binding future Councils to take any particular actions they deem inappropriate. Councilor Brechnitz seconded my motion and after considerable discussion, it was approved by a vote of 6-1. The Plan will therefore be submitted to Tallahassee with the most concerning language omitted (regarding housing) and with few if any additional requirements placed on the City (other than with regard to environmental and historical preservation). I believe this places us in a good position. Once the State gives us its feedback, we will have additional opportunity to review and update the Plan, with further opportunity for citizen involvement and input into the process. We should hear back from the State within 30 days of submission.
Noise Ordinance Review Finally, Chief Frazzano presented findings concerning the noise ordinance. Notably, of the 374 noise complaints received since the new ordinance went into effect, 70 had been verified, resulting in an 18% violation rate. The most common complaints were for loud music (41%), noise from a party (16%), and talking by the pool (11%). The Chief made no recommendation to change the decibel level for evening noise violations. However, she did recommend that the plainly audible test be moved from 8pm to 11pm. This would avoid conversational level discussions turning into noise violations if they don’t otherwise exceed the permitted 60 decibel limit. This seemed reasonable and I supported it. City staff and the City attorney were also directed to aggressively increase their efforts to collect fines imposed by the magistrate for noise violations. The Chief’s recommendations were adopted by a 4-3 vote. The matter will come back to the Council for a second reading before enactment and citizens will have another opportunity to voice their opinions. That concludes my summary of this month’s Council activity. 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