By Pat Newman
The Everglades unfold mile by mile along the Tamiami Trail (41) as mangrove swamps give way to green hammocks, shallow canals and bursts of seasonal color. David Lee Thompson’s collection, “Primordial Everglades,” captures the panorama and the natural minutia of Florida’s natural treasure.
His photographs are on display through Jan. 31 at Museum of the Everglades in Everglades City. Thompson was on hand to discuss his work at the exhibit opening earlier in the month.
“I love creating art, which is a natural and important part of my life,” Thompson explained. The Florida native has been working at his craft for 30 years, starting as a youngster in Hillsborough County where he recalls “running around in cow pastures” taking pictures until he was summoned home by his mother. Thompson grew up in the Tampa area and experienced Florida “BD,” or “Before Disney” as he joked, when jalousie windows were the norm and air conditioning was a luxury. He spent a lot of time outside documenting his view of nature, and in his late teens and early 20s, Thompson was getting positive feedback from families and friends.
“People liked my photos,” he said, which was the catalyst to traveling around the western United States with a camera taking pictures all over his home state.
While he earned a degree in AgroBusiness from Tampa Bay Tech, Thompson’s heart was in the arts. He accumulated as many images as he could and started his business in stock photography. Today, he has successfully transitioned from stock images to fine art photography and creative arts. Soft-spoken and unassuming, Thompson said, “I let my art and hard work speak for itself. Living in Florida, I have developed a great appreciation for the natural world. It’s the foundation from which my creativity springs.”
Thompson is a self-trained artist and likes to combine mediums like oils and acrylics, and create edgy three-D images. His experimentation with different camera filters, off-camera techniques and computer images gives many of his pieces an ethereal or pop-art quality.
Included in the current exhibit are black and white and color photographs.
One of his works, “Everglades Morning,” zooms in on a host of spider webs discovered in the Papaya Hammock. Another, “Alligator Nursery,” captures a clutch of baby alligators nestled in leaves. There are Royal Palms silhouetted at sunset and a Howling Anhinga, beak wide open, offset by reddish foliage.
Obviously, these special images are not always snapped on an hour hike through the Everglades National Park. Thompson camps out with his potential subjects, for as long as two weeks at a time. “The more time you spend outside in the field, the better,” he said.
Thompson is a strong supporter of Everglades protection. His art is not only a beautiful image, but more importantly, a tool to educate and enlighten people about this national treasure.
Thompson’s extensive collection of work can be viewed and purchased at DCLTphoto@aol.com.
By Melinda Gray
As a reporter, I’m often presented with opportunities to participate in fun local activities; invited to join in some wild adventures; and sometimes even confronted with daunting new challenges.
Recently, I was invited to join a two-hour, guided kayaking trip on the morning of Friday, Jan. 16, as part of the Coastal Breeze’s coverage of the 11th Annual Southwest Florida Nature Festival at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. When I agreed to take part in the tour, I was unsure of which category the day’s activity would eventually fall under.
Having only kayaked twice in my life, both times in the last year, I willingly admit to having only beginner-level experience. Furthermore, I’ve yet to venture beyond the canals surrounding my home in Goodland. My first time out, I flipped my kayak, got up-close and personal with some seriously sharp barnacles and killed my phone. Still, I came prepared with my usual kayaking survival checklist items and tried to quiet my nervous stomach as I bumped down the seemingly endless three-mile stretch of Shell Island Road to the kayak launch point.
The weather man had predicted a cold, gloomy morning. At 9 AM, though, the sun was already shining defiantly, and things were warming up fast. Moments after introducing myself, I was handed my waiver and matched to a kayak. Randy McCormick, program administrator at Rookery Bay and our naturalist guide for the next two hours, gave us a quick lesson in kayaking 101. He then described where we would go, what we would likely see and why Rookery Bay is so special.
One by one we eased into our seats and paddled out into the bay, where we awaited further instruction. We all practiced the finer points of paddling, turning, stopping and other general kayaking maneuverability. Those in the group who had never kayaked were readily mastering each practice exercise, and I was feeling very confident in my own skills. The anxiety began to ebb as the excitement built.
It was finally time to start our tour, and I was at the front of the line, sailing nimbly through the water with each stroke of the paddle. I’ve said this before, but I’m always amazed at how wild some parts of Southwest Florida are, especially when they are so close to urban, populated areas. As our small group explored, I was struck by the overwhelming feeling that we were miles away from civilization.
Gliding carefully alongside a beautiful, underwater oyster bed, just inches below the surface, “ooh’s” and “aah’s” could be heard from the group.
In my limited experience, early mornings are the best time to see Florida’s unique myriad of bird species, and this morning did not disappoint. We consistently encountered a wonderful variety of native winged wildlife, and from the very beginning of our tour, our guide pointed out and spoke knowledgeably about every bird species and sea creature we met.
It became clear to everyone very early on that McCormick loves his job, but the naturalists I’ve met usually do. Still, I was beyond impressed as we came upon an osprey nest and were instructed to give the nesting mother a wide berth. While we tried to silently circumnavigate her space, he explained the reason for our stealth as he told her story of tragedy and motherhood woes.
The day had been tremendously enlightening so far, and the last half-hour of our trip turned out to be my favorite part. We lined up single file and slowly made our way through low-hanging mangrove tunnels, peering into the forest of tangled roots, each sustaining some form of life or another. In that moment, alone with such quiet, natural, untouched beauty, the impact I’ve seen people and development have on other local areas seemed to magnify exponentially.
I found myself disappointed when the tour ended, as I often do in these situations. We pulled up to the shore and exited our kayaks as easily as we had entered them two hours earlier, and just like that, it was over.
Tromping around a beautiful, natural oasis has never been my style; instead of making an invasive species of myself, I try to adapt to new surroundings. As to where I categorize this particular day, I think it encompassed a little bit of each; it was a moderately challenging, fun, local adventure.
I want to extend a big “thank you” to Rookery Bay and Randy McCormick for welcoming me into their world, even if only briefly. In addition to the lasting memory of this unforgettable endeavor, I was able to gain invaluable kayaking experience and knowledge about my surroundings, all of which are priceless to me.
SPEAKING OF TRAVEL
Many people have asked me about the food in Istanbul; we loved it. There was a wide variety of options available, both in terms of eating establishments and food choices.
Street food is popular. Red push carts dot the streets and hole-in-the-wall kiosks are located throughout the city. For a quick breakfast or snack any time of the day, there is limit — thin rounds of baked dough that have been dipped in molasses and sesame seeds. During the day, other carts sell grilled corn on the cob and chocolate covered chestnuts. Kumpir stalls sell baked potatoes with a variety of optional toppings. Similar stands offer waffles with many choices of toppings. The Galata Bridge is home to dozens of fish restaurants; some offer the opportunity to purchase take away balik ekmek, grilled or fried fish sandwiches.
Börekçi are tiny pastry shops with take away windows for börek, flaky filled or layered pastry. Fillings include cheese, meat, potato and spinach. There are take away kiosks for the many different types of kebabs and köfte, meatballs popular in Turkey.
My favorite street option were the many fresh juices available at juice stands everywhere. Each morning, I stopped for fresh-squeezed orange juice. In the afternoons, it was pomegranate juice. As the warmer weather arrived, skewers of pineapple and watermelon made their appearances. Because one should not drink the tap water in Istanbul, I don’t think we ever walked more than a block without seeing someone selling bottled water. We always made certain that the seal on the cap was unbroken before purchasing any.
Some ice cream kiosks feature Mara? ice cream made from goat milk and wild orchid powder and beaten with a paddle. Along Istiklal Caddesi, the main shopping street, there are traditionally dressed vendors who made quite a show of stirring the ice cream with long, wooden spoons and interacting with the crowd that gathers to watch.
Two street foods I refused to try were midye dolma (stuffed mussels) and kokoreç (roasted lamb intestines). I couldn’t believe the trays of mussels that were displayed for sale out in the open sun; it was scary. It goes without saying why I passed on the kokoreç.
Moving up from the small stalls and shops are lokantas, simple restaurants where the food is pre-made and often on display in warming trays. Frequented by workers and shoppers at lunch time, we ate at some popular ones and found the food well prepared and fresh. In addition to the kebab and köfte shops, there are pideci, which sell the Turkish version of pizza known as pide or lahmacun. More oblong than round, they come with a variety of toppings typically made of a minced meat mixture. Meyhanes are restaurants that feature a wide variety of mezes, starters, while full service restaurants are restorans.
A traditional Turkish breakfast consists of fried or boiled eggs, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, white cheese, olives, white bread, butter, honey, jam and a spicy sausage. It is served with tea (chai), not coffee, and sometimes börek and yogurt.
Turkish cuisine is known for its mezes, and it is permissible to make an entire meal out of these options. Often, they will be presented on a big plate or cart, allowing diners to choose which ones they want. Offerings can include grilled or fried eggplant served a variety of ways, mint yogurt dip, pinto and fava beans, cheeses, stuffed grape leaves, artichoke, grilled meats, seafood, melon, chili tomato paste, humus.
Grilled and roasted lamb, beef and sometimes chicken are served in any of a numerous variety of kebabs and köfte. I’m told there are hundreds of different types of köfte. These meatballs are not the traditional round ones that we think of. Rather, they tend to be served more like patties or in strips. There is no pork. Manti is similar to dumplings or ravioli filled with meat, fish, chicken or spinach and usually served with a garlic, yogurt and tomato sauce.
Typical side dishes are pilav with rice or bulgar or seasonal vegetables. Almost every traditional meal we ordered came with a chili pepper garnish. Common side salads are roka, rocket (arugula), and çoban, a “shepherd’s salad” of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and olive oil.
Vegetarian dishes include the aforementioned stuffed grape leaves (dolma with different types of vegetables, such as eggplants, tomatoes, zucchinis, peppers) that are filled with various mixtures and bean dishes. Options made without meat are called zeytin yagli and are olive oil based. My favorite was imam baldi, eggplant stuffed with onion, tomatoes and garlic simmered in olive oil. The name means “the imam fainted.” Although it was good, I didn’t faint. I also really liked a variation, eggplant stuffed with mushrooms and tomatoes.
Unless it involves dark chocolate, I am not a big sweets eater. Lokum, or Turkish delight, is sold all over the city. A gelatinous confection, there are a variety of flavors, none of which I really liked. Helva, made from crushed sesame seeds is also sold at all the markets and sweet shops. My favorite dessert was a caramelized pumpkin concoction similar to a flan. My husband’s was a very rich rice pudding. We both loved the baklava, a pastry made of filo dough, chopped nuts and honey, a portion of which typically was four small log shaped pieces. Almost daily, I stopped at a small pastry shop near our apartment to bring home two servings for an afternoon snack.
Ayrun is a popular Turkish beverage made from yogurt with added salt. We both passed on it. Flavored soda water is found on most menus, as are common sodas like Coca Cola. My favorite drink was visne suyu, or sour cherry juice. Chai is served in glass tulip shaped cups. It comes light or dark and in a variety of flavors, apple seemingly to be the favorite. The strong Turkish coffee is typically served after lunch or dinner. Since it is brewed with the sugar, you need to order the level of sweetness in advance. If you want decaf, you probably need to go to one of the chain coffee shops. Our favorite was Lavazza World Best in the shadow of the Galata Tower. It even offered New York style cheesecake.
Raki is a traditional anise flavored liquor. Just as ouzo in Greece, it is usually served mixed with water which turns it milky white. Thus, it’s nickname, “lion’s milk”. Although Turkey is the fourth largest producer of grapes in the world, only a small percentage is used for making wine. I sampled only the red gifted to us by our landlady and found it to be very smooth.
Many of the American fast food chains are here as they are almost everywhere. In two locations on Istiklal Street, Mc Donald’s and Burger King are right near each other. I also saw Popeye’s, Arby’s, Krispy Creme, Caribou Coffee and Starbucks.
Istanbul offers a wealth of good eating choices. If you visit Afiyet olsun, bon appetite.
Vickie is a former member of the Marco Island City Council and Artistic Director of the Marco Island Film Festival, and has been a volunteer for many island organizations. She is presently on the board of the Naples Mac Users Group. Prior to relocating to Marco, Vickie served as a school psychologist, Director of Special Services, and college instructor and also was a consultant to the New Jersey Department of Education.
By Noelle H. Lowery
For Dana Vogel, coming to Marco Island was like going back to her childhood stomping grounds of Bethany Beach, DE.
“I have family that live on Marco Island,” she says. “Marco Island reminds me of Bethany Beach, DE. When I lived there, I remember not having to lock our doors at night and being a smaller, tight-knit community. I feel safe on Marco Island just as I did when I lived in Bethany Beach. It’s a feeling that unfortunately is not so easy to find anymore.”
That’s why she jumped at the chance to teach fourth grade at Tommie Barfield Elementary School, after spending a year commuting from Naples to a Title I school in North Fort Myers. She taught at the school for a total of three years.
“Once I learned that there was an opportunity to come to Tommie Barfield, I was finally ready (and incredibly excited) to make the change,” the Florida Southwestern graduate adds. “This community is incredibly supportive, and it’s wonderful to know that the community cares and is so involved with the futures of our children. I am so grateful for the support we have here at Tommie Barfield.”
Coastal Breeze News sat down with Vogel to find out more about her, her passion for teaching and what makes her one of TBE’s new student favorites.
Q: Tell me about your favorite teacher as a child?
A: I loved my fifth grade teacher Mrs. Hill. I have lots of memories of acting out plays that dealt with American History. I still remember writing and acting out a play about the Battle of Bunker Hill in the Revolutionary War. She was always smiling and cared very much about all of her students.
Q: Why did you become a teacher?
A: I knew I wanted to be a teacher when I was in elementary school. I’ve always had a love of learning and passion for teaching. Initially, when I enrolled in college, I thought I wanted to pursue a career that made more money, but early on, I took a course called Introduction to Education where I had to spend 15 field hours in a school observing teachers. That experience showed me that my passion for teaching hadn’t faded and I’d regret it if I didn’t follow my true passion for teaching. I quickly changed my major and never looked back.
Q: Why elementary school?
A: Elementary-aged children are learning foundational skills that will last them a lifetime. I feel that I can have a positive impact on these students and hopefully instill a love of learning that will follow them throughout their lives and also provide them the opportunity to have a strong foundational skill set in all curriculum areas. I especially enjoy the upper elementary grades because students are able to do more in terms of more complicated projects, but they are still at an age where creativity is crucial. I also love the chapter books for students in this age group.
Q: What three words best describe your teaching style, and why?
A: Honest, caring and challenging. I am honest with my students because I want to develop a level of trust with them that is reciprocal. I spend many hours with these students throughout the school year. It’s important to me to create a learning environment where students feel safe and respected so they can be themselves and share their thoughts knowing they will be accepted. I believe this environment begins with honesty and trust.
I would also describe my teaching style as caring, because I am an advocate for every one of my students. I am their biggest fan, and I am there to support them through their triumphs and struggles. I make a point everyday to say good morning to each student as the walk in. I want my students to know that they are intelligent, important and capable. Caring about students is a necessity for a teacher.
The third word I chose is challenging. I am very fortunate to work with students who enjoy learning and being challenged. I am always pushing my students to reach for grasping the fifth grade standards, reading more AR books than they’ve ever read before, and not accepting anything but their personal best work. Students respond really well to an appropriate level of challenge that is within their comfort zone without becoming overwhelming or frustrating.
Q: What are your goals for your first year at TBE?
A: This year I am working toward obtaining my gifted endorsement. It is a series of five classes provided by the county. My goal is to complete all five this school year. I just began my third course this week. It has been a passion of mine to work with students in the gifted program because I have fond memories of my gifted program in elementary school.
Q: Who has been the biggest influence on your life?
A: I am a person who feels that I have control over my own life, and I own all the decisions I make. I would say in terms of inspiration, my grandmother (Mommom is what I call her) is my inspiration. My grandmother came from a poor family in Philadelphia. My grandmother and grandfather had their first of six children beginning at age 16. My grandmother went on to earn her college degree while raising her children. She eventually earned her doctorate degree in Education, and currently, she volunteers as a guardian ad litem for children in need in southern New Jersey. She also wisely invested her teacher’s earnings and worked very hard to get to where she is now. She always offers me incredible words of wisdom as both my grandmother and a retired teacher. I am trying to convince her to move here so I can see her more often!
Q: If you could have dinner with any five people in history, who would you have dinner with and why?
A: I have always wanted Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison to be at my dinner table because I want them to see how far technology has come in our society. I would also like to include Harriet Tubman to show her how she helped transform our society by risking her life time and time again. I think it would be interesting to invite Vice President Biden as well. I would invite him because he lived in Delaware, and I think he would add some comedy and positivity to the conversation. He would also be able to discuss current events. Finally, I’d invite Thomas Jefferson because I’d ask him to discuss the meaning behind certain parts of the constitution. Courts are often asked to interpret what our founding fathers meant in the Constitution. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could ask them what they meant and if they would still feel the same way in today’s society?
Q: What one personal achievement are you most proud?
A: I graduated college with the highest honors, Summa Cum Laude. Because I worked full time and went to school at night, I had to dedicate all my work sick and vacation time to completing hours upon hours of field service in the classroom. I didn’t take a vacation for about four years. College took me six and a half years to complete. However, I only had two B’s and all A’s throughout the duration of my college degree, and when I graduated with highest honors, it was confirmation of my hard work and dedication. I learned throughout those years how to balance tasks and how to work hard. It changed me as a person for the better and gave me some needed discipline. I look back now, and I can’t believe I actually did that!
Q: How would you like students and parents to remember you?
A: I want them to simply remember me as someone who deeply cared about every single student, and I hope I had a positive impact on their lives in some way.
Q: Ann Frank once said that in spite of everything, she believed people were basically good. Do you agree? Disagree? Why?
A: I absolutely agree with this statement! One of the attorneys I worked for once said, 99 percent of people are good. It’s the 1 percent of people that ruin things for everyone else. I couldn’t agree with him more based on me experiences in life. I always encourage my students to do the right thing, and I believe that most of the time they do. When I was 12 years old, I forgot my wallet in a public restroom in Bethany Beach. I checked at the police station, and an upstanding citizen had returned my wallet with all $14 inside. I think that incident always stuck with me, and I believe that most people would do the same thing. The golden rule, ‘Treat others how you want to be treated’, is how I try to live life, and I hope most others do as well.
On Saturday, Jan. 24, the Marco Island Yacht Club will hold its gala annual event, the Change of Watch and Commodore’s Ball. New officers will be installed at the formal and festive event, which will be held in the Harbor Dining Room, overlooking the yacht basin, the Marco River and the Jolley Bridge spanning the river.
In preparation, Clubhouse Manager Tom Leonard and his staff are planning for more than 80 members and guests. Dress is formal, with gentlemen wearing either the MIYC club uniform or black tie.
The time-honored installation ceremony, Change of Watch, is based on the military tradition in which responsibility, authority and accountability are transferred from the current leader to the new commander. At the Marco Island Yacht Club, this is signified by lowering the Past Commodore’s burgee (triangular flag) and replacing it with the new Commodore’s burgee.
Outgoing Commodore Robert DeFeo will hand over command to the new Commodore Dick Irwin. Other officers to be installed are Vice Commodore Randy Harris, Rear Commodore Lois Dixon, Extended Cruise Captain Lee Harkness, Day Cruise Captain Jim Ferry, Sailing Captain Chuck Downton, Port Captain Kathy Hershberger, Safety & Training Officer David Everitt, Chaplains Steve Schoof and Jan Werson, and Florida Council of Yacht Clubs Representative and its current commodore, Gary Riss.
The Commodore has overall responsibility for the cruising fleets, sailing regattas, boating programs, matters relating to the Florida Council of Yacht Clubs and social activities. Commodore Dick Irwin will swear to uphold the MIYC mission statement, “To provide an outstanding boating, social, and dining environment that is friendly, comfortable, affordable and invites participation.”
The festivities commence at 6 PM with cocktails and hors d‘oeuvres, followed by dinner featuring Beef Wellington and Grilled Gulf Scrimp prepared by MIYC’s celebrated chef, Bob Aylwin. After the installation of the Bridge, the club members and their guests will enjoy dancing to the music of Greg and Claudia.
A private club since 2000, Marco Island Yacht Club is located at the foot of the Jolley Bridge. Currently, the membership includes more than 900 voting and dining members. According to Membership Director Jessica Rigor, membership opportunities are available in both categories, including the new Seasonal Membership, designed to interest part-time residents who wish to participate in all clubhouse and boating activities. MIYC is a member of the Florida Council of Yacht Clubs.
By Pat Newman
Season has sprung in Everglades City, and the list of upcoming events is growing by the day.
Pancakes and Planes
You don’t have to be a pilot to fill-up on pancakes Saturday, Jan. 24, at the Everglades Airpark in Everglades City.
The season’s first pancake breakfast is free and open to the public 10 AM- 12 PM. Hosted by Wings 10,000 Island Tours, the once-a-month event has been going strong for about 12 years. Chuck Gretzke of Wings 10,000 Island Tours said the breakfasts are held to focus attention on the small airport which has the distinction of being the first certified state airport and the oldest state airport, known as X01. Gretzke noted that the monthly fly-ins have attracted as many as 75 airplanes and 225 hungry attendees.
FAA “Wings” program will be held 12:00-1:30 PM for pilots seeking to maintain their ground and air certification.
Call 239-695-3296 for more info.
Smallwood Music Festival
Reserve your seats now for the upcoming Smallwood Music Festival set for Saturday, Jan. 31, in Everglades City. VIP seating is limited, and according to Marya Repko of the Everglades Society for Historic Preservation, there will be a cap on admission of about 100 people for the VIP seating. General admission is wide open, unless safety becomes an issue with crowds.
The first-ever festival will benefit the Smallwood Store, a 1906 trading post in Chokoloskee which is now open as a museum. A four-year legal battle over the access road to the landmark has incurred weighty legal fees for Lynn Smallwood McMillin and husband Gary, who are caretakers of the old store/turned museum.
Folk musicians from around Florida have volunteered their time and talent to play at the festival. Included on the bill is Raiford Starke, The Anderson Brothers, Nate the Gladesman, Stone Crab Steve Arvey, Florida Boy (Pete Gallagher and Pat Barmore), Valerie C. Wisecracker and The Walkin’ Catfish, Cindy Hackney, J. Robert, Snooker Joe Stem and Sun Guy.
The event will be held on the grounds of the historic Rod and Gun Club on the Barron River. Raffle tickets will be sold for a fine art photograph by Everglades artist Clyde Butcher and tiles by Naples artist Muffy Clark Gill. Arts and crafts will also be featured. Admission is $40 for VIP seating and $10 general admission (bring your own chair). To book tickets, go to www.evergladeshistorical.org.
Everglades City Seafood Festival
The Everglades City Seafood Festival is also coming up Feb. 6-8. Started 40 years ago as a small fundraiser to buy playground equipment for McLeod Park, the festival has earned statewide acclaim. “All the fun of country fair with live music and fresh seafood” as it is known will feature local talent as well as Nashville headliners Craig Campbell and OUTSHYNE. The event is sponsored by the Betterment Association of the Everglades Area with proceeds donated to local projects.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas Festival
Also in February is the 11th Annual Marjory Stoneman Douglas Festival, recognizing the tremendous contribution of Douglas who was an author, journalist and environmental activist, best known for “Everglades: River of Grass” published in 1947.
Her life spanned two centuries (1890-1998). The four-day event will feature educational and historical activities, excursions, opening with a luncheon on Tuesday, Feb. 24, with guest speaker Charlie Munroe, grandson of Commodore Ralph Munroe of the Barnacle Historic Park in Coconut Grove.
Reservations for the luncheon at Everglades Isle and a complete schedule of events can be obtained by calling Museum of the Everglades at 239-695-0008.
By Pat Newman
Marco Island Planning Board’s first meeting of 2015 focused on some lingering issues and addressed new business like allowing artificial turf and a temporary use permit for Rose Marina.
Dr. Marty Roddy took over as chairman following the resignation of Monte Lazarus. As a newly appointed city magistrate, Lazarus was required by Florida state law to vacate his seat.
The board voted 5-1 to increase the commercial component of mixed-use from 25 percent to 50 percent in C-4 zoning districts. Dr. Bill Trotter recommended that the ratios should be changed to 50 percent residential and 50 percent commercial. Until the vote to approve, the C-4 zoning district in midtown was the only one in the city with the 25 percent to 75 percent ratio.
The discussion will continue on how to handle mixed-use projects, based on the changing market and demand for residential growth. “What’s best for Marco Island?” asked Charlette Roman. “Let’s take time to digest that piece; it’s really a two-part thing,” she continued, referring to the balance between residential growth and the need for additional commercial projects.
The continuing debate over how to handle density credit transfers will be renewed at the board’s February meeting. The prickly and complicated issue was discussed in June 2014 and again in September 2014. The planning board agreed to impose a temporary moratorium of transfer rights until they could take a closer look and make a satisfactory recommendation to City Council. Drafting the proposed rental ordinance and the accompanying public hearings sidelined density credit transfers until now. In essence, the “issue of density credits is to stimulate the market in the downtown area,” according to City Manager Roger Hernstadt.
In a memo prepared by Betty Hernandez, city planning staff member, “the item was originally proposed in order to give an opportunity for developers to use credits as building incentives in the midtown district, but not penalize the city by removing any remaining waterfront credits from city records.” The three-point goal is to encourage renewal and investment in the city’s midtown district, reduce density and increase revenue to the city.
There are currently 352.8 commercial density transfer credits and 139.2 city-owned credits. In theory, a developer has to have at least 50 percent of the required density for a project to be eligible to buy density credit transfers. Once that is determined the developer can then buy up to a remaining 50 percent from the commercial market, and for each commercial block purchased must also purchase a percentage of credit transfers from the city at market price (the price paid for the commercial credits). The city’s credits would be retired and removed from the rolls with the city retaining the purchase price.
Determining the formula for setting the percentages of commercial and city raised the most questions with Roman, who finally asked for a one-page fact sheet with various options to be reviewed at the next meeting. A sample case of a hypothetical credit transfer case is available at the planning board’s site on the city of Marco Island website.
In other business:
- The board reviewed the details of a temporary use permit from Rose Marina for construction of boat storage on four lots at the corner of Bald Eagle Drive and Magnolia Court. No action was taken.
- The board also heard a presentation about artificial turf and voted to rewrite the ordinance allowing turf installation on a case-by-case basis, subject to public approval.
The San Marco Council of Catholic Women (CCW) will host its annual “Rainbow of Fashions,” Wednesday, Jan. 28, at 11 AM at the San Marco Church Parish Center.
Lunch will be catered by Speakeasy, and fashions will be provided by Kay’s on the Beach and Patchington. There will be door prizes, a Chinese auction and raffle. Tickets are $50 per person, with proceeds benefiting CCW local charities and scholarships.
Reservations are required by Jan. 23. For more information or to make reservations, contact Lynne Minozzi at 239-642-3836.
Checks are to be made out to the San Marco CCW, and can be dropped off in the church office or gift shop.
By Don Manley
It’s a case of so far, so good for Xcel Fitness Spa, Marco Island’s newest, large-scale exercise center.
Located in a 6,300-square-foot space in the Shops of Marco, off San Marco Road, Xcel has attracted a loyal following since opening last Feburary, said the business’ owner, Eddy Hoyo.
“Here we are 11 months later and business is great,” he said recently. “We had a great summer sign-up from residents and season’s starting now, and we’re getting a great response from our out-of-towners. So we’re looking forward to a great season and growing Xcel in the best it can be.”
As Hoyo spoke, sounds of revelry surrounded him, replacing the usual weekday evening din emanating from a workout facility.
The occasion was Xcel’s grand opening celebration. The well-attended, festive event included a Marco Island Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting, hors d’oeuvres, libations and Frank Steiger Photography snapping guest’s pictures on a red carpet installed outside the business’ front door.
Xcel features state-of-the art fitness and spa equipment and facilities, upscale aesthetics, steam and sauna rooms, free weights, personal training, massage and more. There are also group fitness classes, such as TRX, yoga, zumba, Callanetics and stretching mix, Karate Bo power mix and cycling.
There’s also the After Burn Lounge, which features a smoothie bar, gourmet coffee and healthy snacks.
The business opened its doors for the first time last Feb. 17. Hoyo waited until he felt the time was right before holding the grand opening. “It was a brand new facility with a lot of technology, and we wanted to make sure we worked all the kinks and bugs out like any new place,” he said.
Yasmin Hauber has been an Xcel member since July, when she switched from another gym. “I like that it’s new and it’s clean,” she said. “I like that it’s not carpeted, and all the machines, I love them. You can tell they’re better quality. And I love the separate workout room. You can go in there and do what you need to do and not get in anybody’s way.”
Marty Gooch is a snowbird, who also resides in Kansas City, Mo. He was not a member of any gyms on the island until now. “This one attracted me just based on when I came in and looked at it and decided to join,” he said. “The thing I liked about Xcel is the uniqueness of the facility. It’s got kind of a different vibe to it, a real clean facility, really good equipment.”
Regarding the future, Hoyo has plans for additional enhancements that he isn’t ready to reveal fully as of yet. However, he did offer up a small portion of what’s in store.
“One of the things that we will be doing is adding more and more equipment as the club grows,” he said. “And I’m looking at adding more specialized equipment so that people will be able to get things here that they can’t get anywhere else. More to come.”
Xcel Fitness Spa is located at 1817 San Marco Rd. in the Shops of Marco. For more information, visit www.xfspa.com or call 394-9235.
By Coastal Breeze News Staff
Earlier this month, members of the Marco Island Historical Society portrayed historically important Marco Islanders at a reception for the opening of the “Painting Southwest Florida History” exhibit, which was held Jan. 6. The exhibit will be at the Marco Island Historical Museum until March 21.
Rocket scientist Darrell Loan took the Marco’s Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution out of this world at its Jan. 15 meeting at the Hideaway Beach Club.
Loan, a part-time Marco resident, was one of the few “rocket men” whose brilliance, imagination and dedication put the first men on the moon, astronauts Neil Armstrong, followed by Buzz Aldrin, July 20, 1969.
Loan’s exploits are recounted by long-time Marco resident Tom Williams in “Surrounded by Thunder,” his historical narrative about the golden age of America’s space program. Williams’ book is fact, written from several years of interviews with Loan, but it is written with all the excitement of a fiction thriller.
The DAR members heard about the US vs. USSR race to dominate space in the late 1950s and 1960s. NASA was formed after the successful launch of America’s first satellite. That’s when Loan worked with Werner von Braun and other leading German engineers to send volatile rockets into space, eventually one carrying a human. Williams and Loan told the group about the intense era of experimentation, the 12 years between the launch of the Russian Sputnik and American boots on the moon.
Williams is a familiar figure around Marco, especially on the beach, where he is in his fourth decade working at the Marco Island Marriott as a captain, taking guests on sailing and shelling tours in the Gulf and the 10,000 Islands.
Williams also is an accomplished writer. His first novel, “Lost and Found,” which takes place partly on Marco and Goodland, was ranked among the top five books one “must take on vacation” by Sport Diver magazine in 2013.
Williams’ “Surrounded by Thunder” won the Gold Medal in the 2014 Florida Book Awards non-fiction category. Tom Williams’ books are available at Sunshine Books on Marco or at Amazon.com.
DAR Regent Karen Lombardi added a special presentation to the meeting, honoring long-time Marco Islander, Kay Ziegler, with a 20-year membership certificate.
The Marco Island Chapter of the DAR holds its luncheon meetings at 10:30 AM on the third Thursday of the month. It welcomes potential members and members from other chapters who are living in or visiting the area. For further information, please call Karen Lombardi at 239-394-0028.
Marco Island’s Calusa Garden Club held their first meeting of the year on Jan. 12. Prior to the meeting a workshop about air plants was presented by Connie Lowery.
During the meeting, it was announced that president Dale DeFeo had won two state awards: “The Mentoring Award” and a petite floral design award, which will be featured in the 2016 calendar. DeFeo, a well-known floral designer, presented the program after the meeting. It was titled “Blue Ribbon Horticulture Entries and Pot e’fleur.”
A field trip, planned by Opi DeFalco, will occur in March and will be open to the public. Sue Oldershaw also announced upcoming Gad-About trips, which will include Naples Botanical Gardens, the Clyde Butcher Gallery and a visit to the Corkscrew Swamp Boardwalk.
The annual flower show will be held March 7-8, 10 AM-4 PM at the Marco Island Center for the Arts. It will be free to the public. Donations are appreciated. This year’s show is titled “The Beautiful ‘B’ of Island Living — Beach – Birding – Boating – Building.”
Calusa Garden Club meets on the second Monday of the month from October through April, usually at Wesley United Methodist Church, 350 South Barfield. Call 239-394-1425 or log on to Calusa.org for further information.
By Laurie Harris
Public Affairs Officer
In a time-honored tradition, the US Coast Guard Auxiliary conducted the 48th annual Change of Watch. On Jan. 11, Flotilla 95 Marco Island swore in Keith Wohltman as flotilla commander and Tom Dines as vice flotilla commander.
The program began with John DeFalco, a past flotilla commander, sounding the bell for the “Crossing the Bar” ceremony. The ringing of the bell provides a moment to remember those lost over the past year. In 2014, Flotilla 95 lost one of its most dedicated members, Ron Klein, after a long illness. This solemn time was followed by the introduction of the “Missing Man Table” where every detail is a reminder of those who are missing and cannot be with their loved ones.
Master of Ceremonies Walter Jaskiewicz then welcomed flotilla members and distinguished guests. The guests included Chief Warrant Officer Robert M. Garris, commander of USCG Station Fort Myers Beach; Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala; Division 9 Commander David Shuster; Marco Island Fire-Rescue Department Chief Michael Murphy; and Marco Island Polie Chief Alfred Schettino.
Flotilla staff officers were also sworn in for another year of service to Flotilla 95. They included operations, public education, public affairs and member training. Additionally, awards were given to those auxiliarists who have gone above and beyond in their dedication. Jaskiewicz received the Coast Guard Auxiliary Achievement Medal for Superior Performance of Duty. Mike Harris was awarded a grant for Public Education, and John Moyer was named Auxiliarist of the Year.
The evening continued with the exchange of burgees, which symbolizes the transfer of total leadership. Wohltman and Dines are well positioned to provide the leadership for Flotilla 95 for 2015.
As always, Flotilla 95 is here to serve Marco Island on the water and in the classroom. Public education classes include Boating Skills & Seamanship; Boater’s Local Knowledge (an excellent class if you are new to Marco Island), and Suddenly in Command, if you want to learn how to take control of a vessel should an emergency arise.
For more information about the Public Education classes, please contact Marian Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org
The San Marco Church Knights of Columbus Bingo pulled in almost 500 players in the first two sessions of this season — the most players ever.
Attendance for the opening night Bingo was up more than 70 percent over the previous year, a record opening night. The Jan. 15 Bingo games brought in 23 percent more players than the previous year.
Joe Fatony, the Grand Knight of the San Marco K of C said, “Opening night temperatures were cool, which usually makes Bingo a more attractive entertainment alternative for seasonal visitors, but there was still a record crowd for the second night of bingo, which had great weather.”
Bingo Financial Chairman Dennis Pidherny said, “This year, there seems to be more visitors to Marco Island, and that certainly helps our attendance numbers.”
There were some big winners in the crowd. Peg Kloiber of Isles of Capri won the Coach bag on Thursday and called the prize “beautiful.” Beverly Trotter was a $500 Pull Tab Winner and said, “I’m lucky, but I don’t know why.”
Deputy Grand Knight John Caltibiano said, “This is the second year that we are offering a Coach Bag as the Grand Prize, and the higher attendance recorded last year is continuing this year.”
A Coach bag will be the special prize at all bingos this year.
The profits from K of C fund raising are donated to the disabled and needy of the area, including Habitat for Humanity, the soup kitchen in Immokalee, bike safety on Marco, the Catholic Faith Appeal and many other worthy causes. Knights’ donations also include college scholarships for local students.
Knights of Columbus and Columbiettes, the women’s arm of the organization, are all volunteers working as cashiers, floor attendants and bingo callers.
Bob Brown, Bingo chairman said, “With Bingo attendance up 40 percent so far this year, we are fortunate that we have dedicated Knights and Columbiettes to handle the crowds.”
By Coastal Breeze News Staff
The Island Theater Company (ITC) will hold auditions for Joseph Kesselring’s “Arsenic and Old Lace,” Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 2-3, beginning at 6:30 PM. Auditions will be held at the Centennial Bank location at 615 Elkcam Circle on the second floor.
Those unable to attend the scheduled audition dates can contact ITC directly at 239-394-0080 to arrange another time.
Sponsored by Clausen Properties, “Arsenic and Old Lace” is the story of Abby and Martha Brewster, two charming and charitable sisters who populate their cellar with the remains of socially and religiously “acceptable” roomers. They have lived in their genteel Brooklyn neighborhood in the family home for years with Teddy, their brother, who believes he is President Teddy Roosevelt.
All is right in the world until Mortimer, their nephew, discovers a body in the window seat and believes Teddy has killed him. Further complications ensue when the murderous Jonathan Brewster arrives home with his sniveling accomplice Dr. Einstein in tow. When Jonathan learns that his darling aunts have killed 12 men, he is incensed — they’re challenging his own record of murders.
ITC is looking for actors and actresses with a number of potential male cast members ages 25-80. Show dates are April 9-18.
Those interested in auditioning or volunteering please call 239-394-0080 or email email@example.com. To receive information on upcoming shows and auditions, visit www.theateronmarco.com and join ITC’s email list.
By Noelle H. Lowery
It was beautiful afternoon for a soccer game on Friday, Jan. 9.
Thanks to word-of-mouth community support and the Optimist Club of Marco Island’s recreational league, a crowd of about 200 spectators gathered at Winterberry Park to watch the Marco Island Charter Middle School Girls Soccer Team win the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) Championship game against Evangelical Christian School of Fort Meyers.
Led by a strong backbone of eighth graders and second-year Head Coach Patrick Baldwin, the Eagles won handily 6-1 and brought the first conference championship in any sport back to MICMS since 2009.
The game started with a time-honored soccer tradition of the home team taking the field hand-in-hand with young athletes. For this game, players from the Optimist Club’s rec league walked out with the Eagles for the opening ceremonies and singing of the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
“We just thought it would be a nice way to reach out to the community and get them involved,” explains Baldwin. “We wanted to show the boys and girls a quality game that they probably have never seen on Marco before.”
The championship match capped off an electrifying 11-v-11season for the MICMS girls in the GCAC, a conference composed of private schools in Collier and Lee counties. The Eagles finished the season 12-0 in conference play with a total of 70 goals scored and 98 total assists. Only two goals were scored against the team, and those were on penalty shots.
Road to the Championship
The championship season came as no surprise to Baldwin. “When I took over last season, I thought we could be championship material,” he remembers.
So, he encouraged his team to set the bar high at the beginning of the 2014-2015 season. The girls wanted to leave their mark by winning the GCAC and hoisting a championship banner in the gym at MICMS. The school’s last banner was won six years ago.
This banner thing was real important for the girls. For some reason, it’s all they talk about,” Baldwin notes. “We talked all the time about being in the moment and how we can achieve goals and if we do that we will remember these moments for a long time. I think by winning (the GCAC), they will remember that moment of celebrating on the field with each other for a long time.”
Still, the road to the championship was not easy. First, many of the girls on the team had no played 11-v-11 soccer before, despite having the played the game throughout their childhoods. As a result, it was like learning how to play a new game with tactics, positioning and spacing that were foreign to the players.
Eighth-grader Teagan Havemeir remembers very well. “Since we had so many girls, we had to learn what positions everyone was best at, and it took a lot of maneuvering until we got everyone situated,” she says.
She adds that it also took the girls some time to get used to playing with one another: “Even though many of us knew each other’s names, it still took a while for people to open up and become familiar with passing to people who they generally never talked to outside of practice.”
Finally, some of the players were not used to the conditioning it takes to play on a regulation-size soccer field, which can measure between 100-130 yards. That means depending on the player’s position on the field she can run an average of 3-4 miles during a single game all while hawking down the ball and defending her team’s goal.
Keys to Success
The team overcame these challenges together, though, Havemeir points out, with positive attitudes, hard work on and off the field and great coaching. “We all encouraged each other even when we messed up,” she says.
Baldwin also credits the team’s on-the-field leadership as playing an important role in its success. “We have been successful this season because we are led by our mid-field which are all eighth graders,” he says. “Our captains Lola Wesson and Abi Merideth anchor the center, and our outside halfbacks — Teagan Havemeier, Morgan Jones, Laura Polestrap and Miranda Webb — all understand the game. They can control the middle of the field. We play very unselfishly, where in previous seasons or teams that I have coached we did not.”
An aggressive and tough defense made up mostly of seventh graders backed up the leadership. “Our defense is most importantly intelligent, and they understand spacing and team defense structure through communication,” adds Baldwin.
The cherry on top for the MICMS girls: a group of fast sixth-graders who can score. “They should keep us strong for the next few years,” he emphasizes.
Ultimately, though, the team’s success was the product of a passion each girl has for the game of soccer. Almost the entire team finds a way to play soccer year-round whether on recreational leagues or championship traveling club teams throughout Southwest Florida.
In fact, three members of the Eagles play with the Florida Fire Juniors, a developmental and traveling soccer club that is affiliated with Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire. One plays with tournament-based Naples Accurri, one with the San Carlos Scorpions and 16 with the Optimist Club of Marco Island.
“I call these girls rink rats!” quips Baldwin, who hails from Boston. “A rink rat is a hockey term we use up north for kids that will practice anytime or any opportunity they can. They will just show up at the field and play, and that’s what 85 percent of these girls do…(S)eriously, these girls love soccer.”
“With these girls playing for other clubs, it just means they are training and getting the extra work in,” he notes. “They are learning that practicing and hard work will pay out in the end.”
For Havemier and teammates, she believes the biggest lesson they learned from their championship run was “you get out what you put in…We gave it our all, and in return we got all we could have ever wanted: a trophy and ourselves to thank for it.”
“At this level, young athletes are getting their first taste of what they can accomplish as a team,” she adds. “They work so hard to get to where they are, and they want something to show what they have done has been worth it. Winning the championship shows them how far they have come and how much more they can do if they continue to work as hard as they have been.”
To be sure, the hard work is not over for the MICMS Girls Soccer Team. Right after winning the GCAC championship, the team began its Collier County Athletic Conference (CCAC) season, and is now playing against public school’s in the area in hopes of achieving its second major goal of the season: raising a second championship banner.
Good luck, girls!
MICMS Girls Soccer Roster
Teagan Havemeir 4
Abi Merideth 10
Miranda Webb 9
Morgan Jones 12
Lola Wesson 14
Jessica Pierce 19
Laura Polestrap 6
Lexi Harrington 24
Jenna Palumbo 2
Vanessa Alvarez 23
Brielle Penzo 13
McKinley Champeau 11
Hailey Cartwright 5
Kristen Petronzio 18
Stephanie Carter 1
Kirra Polley 16
Reese Jones 22
By Pat Newman
The new president of the Marco Island Police Foundation, Curt Koon, along with incoming board members, were sworn in Tuesday, Jan. 20, by Marco Island City Council Chairman Larry Sacher at the foundation’s first luncheon of the year at Hideaway Beach. Koon and his wife, Jackie, are eight-year residents of Marco Island and owners of CJ’s on the Bay at the Esplanade.
Attendees also gave a standing ovation to Marco Island Police Chief Al Schettino, who has assumed the official title of “police chief” after being the “acting” chief since July 25. Since his hiring, the department is now fully-staffed with 34 sworn-officers and has undergone a makeover to improve efficiency and operational effectiveness.
Guest speaker at the luncheon, Marco Island resident and former Secret Service agent and trainer Dave Gallo, gave Schettino kudos as well, claiming it was his invitation that prompted him to come and speak. “I highly support your new chief, and I am supporting how he is policing this community.”
Gallo shared a short vignette on how a Marco Island police officer recently knocked on his door and offered advice on how to improve security at his home, not knowing his background in the Secret Service and national security. He said the officer was “very professional” and took a good ribbing from Gallo and his buddies that day. Gallo noted that it’s not every community that has policemen knocking on your door to offer advice!
He also offered tips to citizens on protecting themselves from computer hackers, personal identification theft and credit card fraud. First and foremost, Gallo said, “Practice self-policing.”
“The (US) government is on top of these crimes,” Gallo said. In fact, Identification theft comprises only three percent of cyber-crime in America. He also noted that the Secret Service is also on the alert and was the initial government organization to alert retail giants Target and Home Depot that their security had been compromised.
Gallo, dressed casually in an open-neck shirt and slacks, strolled among the lunch crowd, microphone in hand, offering tips and answering questions. He talked some about participation in social media platforms such as Facebook, warning users not to announce, “We’re headed to the Bahamas for a two-week vacation!”
“Don’t be a victim,” he warned.
In regard to credit cards, Gallo suggested carrying only one and monitoring its activity daily. If you are destroying a card, “cut it up and put the pieces in different garbage bags” to prevent “pickers” from piecing together information.
Surprisingly, hackers have also successfully infiltrated charity organizations like the Red Cross. Gallo recommended making a personal contact within a charity you wish to support to avoid problems.
Finally, if you answer your phone from a so-called associate of your bank and the caller requests “sound weird, it probably is weird…Hang up!”
The Marco Island Foundation is accepting new members. The organization provides services to the police department’s officers and the community, including the neighborhood watch program and assistance with crowd and traffic control during major events on Marco Island.
The foundation assists officers and employees of the Marco Island Police Department in emergency financial situations and maintains a scholarship fund for officers and their children. Founded in 2001, the non-profit foundation currently has approximately 186 members.
By Coastal Breeze News Staff
In December, a pair of ospreys did what most of their species do that time of year — they began building a nest.
Unfortunately, they chose as the location for their new abode the top of a seawall construction crane parked in a local canal. Neighbors reported this event to ever helpful and knowledgeable Nancy Richie, Marco Island’s city environmental specialist, who contacted the owner of the crane, Duane Thomas Marine Construction LLC, and Jo Barnhart of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Protected Species Permitting Office.
According to the FWC web site, ospreys commonly nest on power poles, communication towers, water navigation devices, lighting fixtures, outdoor billboards and other man-made structures, as well as in decaying or dead trees. Sometimes, these large nests render the structure inoperable or present a safety hazard.
FWC typically will authorize permits for the removal of inactive nest (i.e. nests containing no eggs or flightless young) and usually require the permittee to build a replacement nesting platform/structure of comparable or better quality than the compromised nest support. Requests for removal of active nests (i.e. containing eggs and/or flightless chicks) are issued if the nest presents a safety hazard for the birds or humans. Active nest removal permits are issued with less frequency and on a case-by-case basis.
According to Angela Williams, FWC’s protected species permitting coordinator, the case of Marco’s persistent osprey pair is not unique. “It does’t happen very often, about 10 times a year,” she explained. “It is only unique in that the pair was nesting on an unsafe environment.”
Williams adds that a representative from Duane Thomas Construction contacted her office on Dec. 15 and applied for the permit to remove the nest. “We quickly issued it recognizing that it was an unsafe situation for both man and bird. The company was also experiencing an economic impact because of the situation, and there were no eggs or flightless babies in the nest,” she notes.
Generally speaking, these types of permits are good for one calendar year, and in the Marco case, the permit will lapse this coming December. The permit allows the contractor to remove the nest and discourage the birds from renesting in the same spot, hoping they will look for a more suitable location. Williams is optimistic about the renesting, as there is an osprey nesting platform located not far from the dock where the crane was sitting as well as a number of tall trees in the area.
Williams speculates that the osprey chose the crane for nesting purposes because “when it is erect it is the tallest, most prominent structure in the area,” making it an ideal place for the osprey to survey the land, hunt and protect their nest from predators.
Back on Marco, once the permit was obtained, the contractor removed the nest and moved the crane for a day to do some work at a nearby site. When the crane returned, the ospreys set about constructing another nest and began roosting in it. Early on the morning of Jan. 12, workers lowered the crane and destroyed the second nest; their permit from December was still good. Even as the crane was raised back into place, though, one of the pair dove and swooped at it, trying frantically to reclaim its “home.”
As the Coastal Breeze goes to press, this persistent pair is back atop the crane and sticks are once again beginning to pile up.
By Noelle H. Lowery
Cathy Rogers is Marco Island’s most accomplished realtor right now.
The reason: After three years of marketing and advertising one of the island’s premier Gulf-front properties — 1549 Heights Court — Rogers recently closed the $7.5 million sale of the sprawling, luxury home.
It is the highest priced home sale on Marco since 2008, when a home sold for $7.7 million. To date, the highest priced home sold on the island changed hands in 2007 for $9 million.
“Although I do all types of real estate, it is very much an accomplishment to not only list a property of this stature, but to sell it as well, as there have only been four homes over $7 million sold on Marco Island,” says Rogers, a luxury real es-tate specialist with Premier Sotheby’s International Realty.
She adds that the sale was finally made possible because “the truly high-end buyers just now have come back onto Marco.” To be sure, Marco Island’s real estate market has rebounded nicely from the financial and foreclosure crises that began in 2008, especially when it comes to home prices. In fact, according to the December 2014 market summary by the Marco Island Area Association of Real-tors, the median sale price of a home on Marco was up 4.5 percent from Decem-ber 2013 to last month. Additionally, the average sale price was up to nearly $1.068 million from $971,584.
Built by London Bay Homes on the southern end of Marco Island, the home encompasses 20,000 square feet of total space, including 11,662 square feet of living space under air conditioning, an outdoor kitchen area, a multi-tiered lanai and five garages. It is positioned on 293 feet of property right on the Gulf of Mexico, and has a 255-foot teakwood dock and an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
The front doors open to a grand foyer with 33-foot hand-painted ceilings and a dual staircase. The home showcases five bedrooms, two master suites, one maid’s quarters, a dining room with a Swarovski crystal chandelier, a mahogany den and a game room complete with a full bar and 12-seat movie theater, as well as four coquina shell fireplaces and six balconies.
Even with this spectacular description, selling the home was a challenge. “The market conditions when the home was listed were not great,” admits Rogers, and these conditions made it difficult to find the right buyer for the home.
The biggest obstacle was making sure potential buyers were qualified. “It was tough,” she notes. “You have to research the people and make sure they are qualified, and you have to be a little more diligent in your research. The average buyer gets prequal letter from the bank. The type of buyer for this home has to prove they have the net worth and ability to buy a home like this.”
As a result, Rogers put her extensive background and education to work for her client. She holds numerous real estate certifications and designations, including the advanced Custom Luxury Home Marketing Specialist (only 1 percent of realtors achieve this); Council of Residential Specialists Certification (only 4 percent of Realtors in the nation have this designation); Graduate Real Estate Certification; Seniors Real Estate Specialist; Certified Distressed Property Expert; Accredited Buyers Representative Certification; and the highly sought after Million Dollar Guild designation. She also has earned numerous real estate performance awards, including “Sales Team of the Year” for several years and Gold and Platinum awards.
“My education helped me with the sale of the house,” Rogers says. “The more educated you are, the more prepared you are to handle whatever situation comes up.”
To that end, she used Premier Sotheby’s international reach to 900 different web sites to market the property, as well as advertising in “Wall Street Journal,” “New York Times” and “DuPont Registry.” The home was showcased on “Out and About Southwest Florida” on ABC-7, and Rogers herself handed out magazines and brochures highlighting the home at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show and Sotheby’s International Convention in Miami.
So, what is next for Rogers? She hopes this sale will prove her expertise and bring her more high-end clients, and in fact, she has a number of luxury listings on Marco Island right now.
“This is a hard act to follow,” she notes. “But, I’ve proven I can sell this type of property, and I hope to get more ops to sell homes like this. I have proven that I am a quality luxury home market specialist.”
By Noelle H. Lowery
It was supposed to be a discussion about the size and design of the proposed new Mackle Park Community Center.
As happens often times when the subject of Mackle Park comes up, though, the joint workshop between the Marco Island City Council and its Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee (PRAC) — held Tuesday, Jan. 20 — quickly devolved into a discussion about projected programming numbers, competition with private community and business organizations, and whether or not the sole focus of this project should even be Mackle Park.
The workshop was a culmination of more than two years of work on the part of PRAC committee members — work to get the word out about the need for a new community center, work to get the August referendum approved by a majority of Marco Island voters and work to design and build a facility that will meet the current and future needs of a growing Marco Island community.
To be sure,the work paid off in at least one area: 55 percent of Marco Island voters approved the Mackle Park public referendum question — “Shall the city expend up to $3.5 million to construct a new community center up to 16,000 square feet at Mackle Park?”
In preparation for this workshop, PRAC committee members did their due diligence, visiting multiple government-backed community centers all over Lee and Collier counties. They examined the architecture, the lay-outs and the amenities included in each facility to form a basis of comparison for the current tentative floor plan for Mackle Park.
The conclusion was simple for Dr. Gerald Swiacki, PRAC vice chairman. “It would be foolhardy to build an inadequate facility only to have to add to it within a few years,” he insisted.
PRAC Member Litha Berger agreed: “Things are not slowing down around here…We need a good rec center. We need a new building.”
The current concept includes a two-phase, 16,070-square-foot facility. Phase one consists of an 8,736-square-foot building, which would include a central lobby, reception and staff area; restrooms; two programs rooms; adult game room; and a 2,900-square-foot community room. It has been designed contiguous to the existing community center. Phase two includes razing the existing community center and the construction of a 7,334-square-foot building with an identical floor plan to phase one.
Mindy Gordon, the city’s recreation manager, did her homework as well, creating an exhaustive listing of current and projected programming for Mackle Park. Her aim was to demonstrate to City Councilors the possible space needs for programming in a new facility as far a three years in advance. She told workshop attendees that the conceptual design encompassed 6,200 square feet of space just for programming and includes a 2,800-square-foot teen/youth center, which would replace the existing portable trailer and game room. City staff has been basing its estimates on a price per square foot of $200 for new construction.
Immediately, councilors questioned the programming projections, going so far as to question whether or not the type of programming was even warranted. Councilor Victor Rios noted that the projected new programming in the listing accounted for a 150 percent increase in the activities offered at Mackle Park.
PRAC Member Dr. Carlos Portu countered, “We put together a plan for general meeting space. It is hard to go to a community group to ask hypothetically when and how they will use (the space) in the future.”
He added: “Until the structure is really there, it is very difficult to project. Deciding programming two to three years ahead of an existing structure is very challenging. When you really get down to the nitty gritty, the increase in size is not really that dramatic. We are talking about a 5,000-square-foot addition to the existing space. It is easy to see how this space will be utilized, and we have gone through this seven ways to Sunday and then some. I don’t think there will be an underutilization of this buildings. We are trying to be as conservative as we can. Building something that will be ineffectual the day it is constructed doesn’t seem very wise.”
Then there was the competition question.
“How did you account for the Y’s plans for a new teen center?” asked Councilor Ken Honecker, referencing the recently released plans from the Greater Marco Family YMCA for a 5,000-square-foot Youth Development Center.
Swiacki answered, “The Y is a private organization. We are not a private organization. Our citizens should have the best facilities available. Regardless of what (the Y does), we should offer our citizens the opportunity to have a teen center.”
Bruce Graev, vice president of the Cultural Alliance of Marco Island and Goodland, a local group of seven not-for-profit groups, stressed: “The issue is that the city needs to make sure it is not competing with nonprofits on the island.”
Vice Chairman Bob Brown echoed this sentiment. “I would hate for us to be in competition with anyone else on the island,” he said.
Councilor Amadeo Petricca added, “I don’t want us to be everything to everybody. We have other facilities on this island…I am not looking for us to compete with private entities.”
Gordon tried to ally these concerns by emphasizing that the programming — current and projected — does not compete with any of the other groups on the island. Instead, it enhances the offerings, and many times, the city has worked with these groups in order to offer programming.
Finally, some councilors questioned if all of the focus — and funding — should be directed at Mackle Park. “Was there any consideration given to any other parks or space the city owns?” asked Honecker. “We want to get the most bang for the buck for our citizens. We might want to add square feet somewhere else.”
Enter Veterans Community Park and City Manager Roger Hernstadt’s desire to build a 10,000-square-foot multi-purpose building there. The possibility of expanding city facilities at Veterans Park has councilors considering scaling back the Mackle Park concept to build additional space elsewhere.
“What has changed in our mind is that we have an opportunity to build a facility at Veterans Park that was not originally in the cards,” explained Honecker. “We could do a total redo of the building at 10,000 square feet, and then see what other space is available at Veterans Park.”
Brown agreed: “A 16,000-
square-foot facility just doesn’t work for me. What are we going to do with Veterans Park. If we throw 100 percent of the money at Mackle Park, we can kiss anything at Veterans Park goodbye.”
The mention of Veterans Park raised the eyebrows of PRAC members. “Mackle Park is our baby,” said Dolores Siegel. “If we are going to do something, we would do it here.”
“We have the usage to justify the existing space,” Portu added. “I don’t know if splitting off a third of this building is going to provide you any more value. I don’t think it should be done at the expense of making a truly impactful change at Mackle Park…We don’t want to decrease the effectiveness of the space. Great consideration was given. We want to maximize the space and minimize the issues.”
PRAC Member Michael Levine was particularly disturbed. “We put out a referendum for Mackle Park, and now we are talking about something else. It looks like we were not telling the truth, and that concerns me,” he stated.
In the end, Council Chairman Larry Sacher mentioned one other “outside-the-box” alternative, the possible municipal acquisition of the financially-strapped Baptist Church property.
“We are operating on some assumptions here,” said Sacher. “The cost guestimate is just that, and the usage gustimate is just that…I think the next step is doing an architectural RFP.”
Councilor Joe Batte agreed: “I suggest we start at 12,000 to 16,000 square feet, and bring in a professional to see how close we can get to that…Let’s bring an architect in to start this thing.”
The Council’s consensus was to focus on a facility between 12,000 and 16,000 square feet. The discussion will move forward Monday, Jan. 26, at 5:30 PM, when City Council meets again to continue its regular meeting from Tuesday, Jan. 20, which ran over the approved four-hour limit. At that time, councilors will vote on a resolution approving the square footage for the new Mackle Park Community as well as whether to stick with the current two-phase construction plan or to build the new center all at once. An architectural RFP already is in the works.