More than fifty people, including city council and staff, filled the conference room at the Marathon Fire Station last Thursday to offer their opinion on the appearance of the Middle Keys main thoroughfare.
Professional moderator Jennifer Powell, a Senior Education Instructor at Dolphin Research Center and former corporate development manager at Aetna, Inc. led the discussion on how residents felt the city could work to improve it’s image for travelers passing through the community.
For the brainstorming portion of the meeting, Powell encouraged the free-flowing exchange of ideas and noted, “It’s ok to build on someone else’s ideas and be creative. But don’t criticize anyone else’s ideas in here today; every one has merit.”
Before handing out index cards for each person to take down their own notes, she requested that the meeting’s focus remain on the Community Image Advisory Board’s (CIAB) charter – the U.S. 1 corridor – and discouraged swaying into specifics for each neighborhood.
The CIAB is composed of vested community members and leaders appointed individually by each city council member.
“The turnout for the meeting was greater than we had estimated,” said chairman Pete Chapman, adding that the session was a productive starting point.
This CIAB spearheaded the effort on behalf of the city to plant the recently installed variety of palm trees in the median fronting the Marathon airport, and many of the comments in the meeting quickly revolved around expanding that effort.
Phil Snowberger, vice president of the Cocoplum Property Owners Association, noted the high cost of planting mature trees often cost more to plant and thus decrease the number of trees that can be installed.
“When those expensive trees die, who pays for them?” Snowberger pondered.
Mike Pullis of Tilden’s Scuba Center added that proper and regular maintenance of existing landscaping would also be a quick and affordable way to better manage the city’s image.
“What is currently there is either green and overgrown or brown and dying,” he noted.
Councilman Pete Worthington pointed out that for the years he’s been serving on the council, the general mentality of the city is that DOT is responsible for right of way maintenance.
“Even though it’s not our financial responsibility to maintain it, I think we could get out there and mow the grass a little more frequently.”
Beverly Welber, wife of Michael Welber who’s also serving on the CIAB, added that resides on the gulf side of U.S. 1, and pedestrian crosswalks would not only ease the process of crossing the highway to the ocean side where most businesses are located but would also help to slow traffic and encourage a more pedestrian-friendly community.
Judy Tarleton suggested cleaning, repairing and painting buildings like the main post office, and her sentiments were echoed by others who suggested uniform architectural details for businesses fronting the highway.
Josh Mothner noted that landscaping is flexible, and insisting on architectural conformity for businesses could get sticky.
Steve Pearson, owner of Marathon Auto Air, said he sat in the same meeting shortly after the city was incorporated and suggested the city could determine a themed zoning district similar to that of his former home in Bayview.
“It’s not something that’s done immediately, but the city must establish a theme for it’s appearance,” Pearson suggested.
Chapman said the CIAB will likely take the month of June to prepare a formal recommendation for the city council.
Their next meeting will be held on June 7 at 1:30 pm in the FDOT Conference Room at the Marathon Government Center, located at 3100 Overseas Highway.