In a stunning turn of events, representatives of both Hendricks Commercial Properties, owners of the Island Plaza Shopping Center, and the Progressive Auto Storage properties withdrew their joint petition for the creation of a Planned Unit Development.
Hendricks and Progressive were considering a combined $3 million investment to update those properties at Bald Eagle Drive and Collier Boulevard – the city’s “gateway” – over the next several years.
This action comes on the heels of about 11 hours of questioning and debate during the last two meetings of the Marco Island Planning Board.
“Frankly, my client decided to withdraw the petition because it didn’t appear that we could reach an acceptable compromise with city staff and the opposition,” said Patrick Neale, attorney for the Hendricks Group.
The proposal was initially brought to the city almost two years ago and had been amended, revised and modified.
The city had experienced considerable turnover in its professional staff during that time, further extending the time consideration as new staff were constantly being brought up to speed and familiarized with this project.
The 19-24 page document that both sides had been working with toward the end of 2015 exploded into a 121-page document, causing Planning Board member Frank Mulligan to scold both sides at the first meeting in January.
“Last month we had two different documents, one of about 19 pages and another of about 24 pages. What you’ve brought to us has now grown to 121 pages. Shame on you, shame on the attorneys for both sides,” said Mulligan.
Neale, the attorney for Hendricks, also gave the board a more comprehensive update about why the board was being asked to approve the project and the Planned Unit Development overlay.
According to Neale, without the ability to combine the parking assets of both properties, they would be precluded from making the changes necessary to meet their design standards.
Frustration boiled to the surface early on when Neale voiced his annoyance over the issue of signage and prohibition of certain signage that had been included as part of the package. “I can’t understand how we get this far and have this come forward now,” said Neale.
Neale pleaded with the board to reserve judgement on some of the more specific details of how the project would evolve and leave that to the site plan development process. Board member Jack Patterson agreed with Neale. “You’re right, we should wait for the next level of review and deal with the general specifics of the PUD,” said Patterson.
Opposition to the project came from two areas – Smokehouse Bay Condominiums and owners of self-storage in the C-5 zoning districts across the street from the properties owned by Progressive at 720 and 740 Bald Eagle Drive.
Progressive had previously agreed to reposition the car-wash blowers and the vacuum outlets on their building. Those items had already been done by Progressive and they were looking to make a substantial investment in the installation of Acoustiblok sound deadening material to dampen down the sound coming from the car wash.
Progressive, represented by attorney Richard Yovanovich, explained that they have removed any request for the inclusion of self-storage within their petition and were only seeking the return of their original rights for uses in a C4 district, which were selectively taken from them because of council actions in 2013.
Yovanovich also pointed out that nearly 85 percent of the owners at Smokehouse Bay had purchased their units after the car wash was in operation.
Over the years, Rizzi Self Storage and Marco Island Storage had objected to Progressive’s requests for the allowance of air-conditioned self-storage in their building at 720 Bald Eagle Drive. The crux of their complaints dealt with a devaluation of their property should the usage of air-conditioned self-storage, now only allowed in the C-5 zoning district, be made allowable in the more restrictive C-4 district.
After a short lunch break the petitioners returned to board to announce they would not be pursuing their petition, as they felt there was no chance of reaching an accommodation.
The board sat in stunned silence until Planning Board member Irv Povlow inquired of Neale whether his client would be willing to repay the city for its time. Neale response was swift and to the point. “Well then I’d like you to pay my client’s costs. They have spent well over $100,000 on this process. They invested deeply in this community and spent a lot of time and money. They are no longer prepared to move forward,” said Neale.
The primary elements of the PUD improvements, which were lost when the petitioners walked away, included additional public parking on Herb Savage Way; improved stormwater drainage on Herb Savage Way and in the Island Shopping Plaza; a pedestrian node at the corner of Bald Eagle and Collier; an updated and improved facade on the building; enhanced landscaping and connectivity between the properties, in addition to Bald Eagle and Herb Savage Way.
Progressive would have added pedestrian and architectural amenities to its property and would have made provisions to reduce the sound impact between the car wash and Smokehouse Bay Condominiums.
Those enhancements are now off the table, and were included in the $3 million investment in the overall project.