Chairs for rent at Sombrero Beach?

Nearly a year after Marathon-based realtor Josh Mothner began floating the idea of establishing a chair and umbrella rental service at Coco Plum and Sombrero Beach, the client he’s representing still has no concrete answers.

Vice Mayor Dick Ramsay put the item on the agenda for discussion Tuesday evening during their regularly scheduled meeting at the Marathon Government Center where Mothner pressed the city council for answers.

“What’s the issue here?” Mothner asked, adding that his tentative plans had received unanimous approval from the Marathon Parks and Recreation Committee as well as the Switlik Family Estate that donated the property to the City of Marathon.

“They are supportive of it as long as it does not involve food,” he clarified.

In a draft lease agreement brought to the council last fall, Mothner proposed an $18,000 annual concession fee to lease from the city a 12-by-12-foot space in the grassy interior park at Sombrero Beach near the volleyball court. His client, who formerly rented beach equipment at Holiday Isle, has suggested renting floating hammocks, stand alone hammocks, umbrellas and beach chairs.

Councilman Rich Keating told Mothner that while he appreciated his enthusiasm, he had not had any constituents approach him about the lack of equipment rental at the beach.

“I’m inclined to leave things the way they are,” Keating said. “If there’s a chance to vet it and let the public talk about it, I’d be in favor of that. The beach is a special place.”

Mayor Pete Worthington, who lives in the Sombrero Beach neighborhood, called the beach one of the biggest tourist attractions in Marathon aside from the City Marina.

“I don’t want to see anyone staking out any section of the beach because they have a concessionaire license,” Worthington contended. “We’re not Holiday Isle selling $10 rum-runners. It’s a local town community park.”

Councilman Mike Cinque suggested that the proposed idea was really more about convenience than attracting additional bodies to the beach.

“It’s not like it’s a Ferris wheel or a bounce house that’s going to be a major tourist attraction,” Cinque offered.

The only way to clarify the terms of the rental agreement, according to Councilwoman Ginger Snead, would be to send the opportunity out to bid with very specific limitations on space allocation, what items would be available and the like.

“We have a lot of empty storefronts in Marathon right now,” Snead said, adding that the council rejected a proposal in recent years to allow kayak rentals at the beach. “I don’t want to see us kick the can down the road anymore. We need put this on the agenda and make a decision.”

After further discussion, she asked council to clarify their direction to staff in bringing the item back in a future meeting.

“Will this be coming back as a resolution to send it out to bid, or will we be approving a specific contract?”

The council directed staff to bring back the outline of a plan to provide exclusive concession terms specifying how much space will be made available, hours of operation and what items would be available for rent.

In other business:

• The city’s building department four month fiscal revenues netted $123,676.15, falling far short of their anticipated goal of $258,333.33.

Building Official Ron Wampler reported that though his department had covered their expense budget, they’d not yet collected any of the revenue anticipated from the Faro Blanco redevelopment.

City Manager Roger Hernstadt said the developers were currently looking for alternatives to their original financing scheme.

“They indicated to me they’re not pulling permits unless than can get approved financing,” Hernstadt offered.

Planning Director George Garrett said he would be following up with Bill Spottswood this week and would ask him to update the council at their next meeting.

• Council approved a new fee schedule for the building department aimed at streamlining the process that was averaging nearly 17 days for approval.

Hernstadt told the council that the 14-page fee schedule had been reduced to four.

“One of the biggest issues was figuring out the final fees,” he continued, adding that the Florida Keys Contractors Association had endorsed the plan and intended to encourage the same action at the county level.

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