Updated: Aug 6, 2022
SEPTEMBER 2021 NEWSLETTER
Posted by Greg Folley 5sc on September 27, 2021
FROM THE DESK OF VICE CHAIR GREG FOLLEY Friends & Supporters,
September was a busy month for the City Council! We held two special meetings to continue our review of the Comprehensive Plan after receiving comments (but no required changes) from the State of Florida and the SW Florida Water Management District. These meetings were held September 7 and 20, prior to our regular meetings, held in the evenings on those same dates.
The Comprehensive Plan As readers will recall, the Comprehensive Plan is required of all municipalities every 10 years under Florida law, and must address the city’s vision for future land use, infrastructure requirements, housing, intergovernmental relations, parks and recreation, and other matters as well. The purpose of the Plan is to guide the city as it develops its land use code and to provide guidance for future city councils concerning the future development of the community. During the nearly five hours of meetings held on the Plan, citizens continued to provide excellent input, and Council responded by modifying or eliminating elements of concern in the Plan. Numerous requirements were eliminated that might have required the city to coordinate with other governmental and non-governmental bodies to serve political or social objectives which might not align with our values here on Marco. Also, and very significantly, responding to concerns from citizens about permitted density on the Island, Council confirmed that the Plan creates no additional density from what is allowed under existing law. Further, Council unanimously agreed to eliminate all bonus and incentive density units that had been available to developers under the previous Comprehensive Plan, including units specifically dedicated to the development of lower income housing on the Island. Council will review the Plan at least one more time at our meeting on October 4, and we continue to receive and consider citizen comments on this important planning document.
Successful City Budget Turning to our regular meetings for this month, Council reviewed twice and gave final approval to our city operating budget and the millage (property tax) rate for 2022. The city budget came in well below our spending cap, and our new millage rate was again reduced to keep CITY property tax bills flat for all homesteaded property owners. There was some confusion and misinformation as to the impact and significance of these steps on social media, so I thought I would quote former Councilor Larry Honig who explained this achievement clearly and succinctly: “If you own homesteaded real property on Marco Island, your taxes are flat. This is the oddly named but very meaningful ‘rollback rate.’ In other words, your tax rate is lower this year. And for the last four years. This is what fiscal responsibility, and conservative management, looks like. In Florida, municipalities have to finalize their taxes this month. I am researching this—almost 500 municipalities in the state—but so far, Marco Island is the ONLY city whose tax rate has declined for four years in a row. Folks, this is good government—with a great City Council. Yes, other factors in your tax bill may be going the wrong way (up), such as Collier County property tax rates. But not the City of Marco Island.” I am very proud of the City’s success in holding property taxes flat for multiple years as housing valuations have skyrocketed. We have thus been compelled to control our spending rather than impose higher taxes on our citizens.
Marco Island Waterways Update Finally, at our September 20 meeting, Council received the long awaited report on the status of our Marco Island waterways from Dr. Harper of Environmental Research and Design, Inc. The report was over 500 pages in length and was based on thousands of water quality readings and a voluminous amount of research conducted over the past 18 months. In summarizing his report, Dr. Harper noted that the water in our canals is “impaired” as defined by state law, due to above “pristine” levels of nutrients, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus. Significantly, Dr. Harper pointed out that the waterways surrounding our Island and flowing into our canals, including nearby Gulf waters, are already “impaired” due in significant part to the organic decomposition of mangrove leaves and other natural plant waste in our vicinity. These already impaired waters are further impaired on Island primarily by fertilizer and lawn waste drainage into our canals, and, more significantly, by reuse water containing high levels of nutrients which are used for irrigation, primarily by condos and other multi-unit properties, and on the golf course. Possible solutions to reduce the level of impairment might include more rigorous enforcement of our fertilizer ordinance, a reduction in use of or further treatment of reuse water, as well as increased circulation and tidal flow in the more stagnant areas of our canals. However, as Dr. Harper pointed out, it would be nearly impossible to eliminate the impairment in our canals altogether, as the waters are fed by surrounding areas which are themselves impaired due to natural organic decomposition. Council agreed to receive the report and complimented Dr. Harper and his colleagues for their excellent and illuminating work. Council also directed staff to thoroughly review the report and involve appropriate committees, including the Waterways and Beach and Coastal Resources Committees, among others, in developing recommendations for Council to consider in the coming months based on this critical information now available to us.
New Fire Station Groundbreaking On September 7, I was honored to participate in the groundbreaking celebration for the new Fire Rescue Station and Emergency Operations Center. It was a pleasure to personally thank Chief Byrne and former Chief Murphy for their foresight and dedication to this project. It will serve not only as home to our Fire Rescue personnel, but also as the city’s emergency headquarters in the event of hurricane. I was also please to see the city obtained a bond to fund the Fire Station 50 & Veterans’ Park rebuild at an astounding rate of only 1.81%, saving Marco taxpayers nearly $500k over what we expected over the life of the bond. I know everyone shares in our excitement as we anticipate the completion of our new Fire Rescue Station and EOC. Congratulations to all those who have brought this project to life.
Paying Tribute To Sacrifice On the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, we honor the nearly 3,000 men, women, and children we lost that day. We remember the acts of heroism. We pray for the families and loved ones. We thank those who continue to serve and protect our nation. A commemorative ceremony was held in Mackle Park by the Marco Island Fire Rescue and Police Foundations. We will never forget. 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