Marathon council tentatively agrees to future architectural standards

The Marathon City Council has put a three-month moratorium on new construction and major redevelopment while the city's beautification committee brainstorms architecture, landscaping, lighting and sign standards for the city.

The so-called zoning in progress passed 4-1 at Tuesday's City Council meeting but not without debate about property rights. Proponents said developers and property owners won't be affected but opponents said it could slow development.

"I think having some kind of standard, consistency of design through the town, is an important aspect of our U.S. 1 corridor," said Vice Mayor Mark Senmartin, who proposed it. "Many studies have shown beautifying your business will increase your business as well as your property values."

"This is like Coral Gables on steroids," said Councilman Dan Zieg, who cast the lone dissenting vote. "I think we're all here for the freedoms that have been inherent to the city of Marathon for many years, not the restrictions, not the guidelines for development."

Developers will still be able to submit permit applications but permits may not be issued until the zoning in progress sunsets.

According to what's called a US-1 Corridor Task Force Report included with the ordinance, suggested design standards include:

  • Bahamian/Conch/Key West architecture on new construction along U.S. 1.

  • Hip, gable, mansard and flat roof styles (no barrel tile roofs).

  • Pastels and tropical colors only.

  • Low-luminosity, solar or LED lights.

  • Signs, over time, must achieve architectural uniformity.

  • No fence or vegetation taller than 28 to 32 inches and no visual barriers except permitted signs or canopy trees planted according to an approved landscaping plan.

Realtor and Community Image Advisor Board member Josh Mothner, board Chairwoman Linnea Cunningham and lawyer Frank Greenman spoke in favor of the standards during public comment.

"We want to think to the future. Making quick decisions for each new development request is repetitive and divisive," Cunningham said.

Thea Ramsay, wife of former Mayor Dick Ramsay, and Daniel Samess, chief executive of the Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce, spoke against zoning in progress.

"This proposed ordinance steps all over property rights, devalues properties, applies outrageous socialist policies on conformity and will halt new development and redevelopment," Ramsay said. "My strong recommendation is that we throw this proposed ordinance back where it came from."

Senmartin rebuffed claims that the design standards would make every business in Marathon appear the same.

"We've got people saying everyone has to have the same paint color. That is ridiculous," Senmartin said. "If somebody would take the time to read the ordinance or resolution here, you'd understand none of these things actually apply."

An original proposal for a six-month zoning in progress was dwindled to three months after councilmen said they wouldn't vote for six months. The Community Image Advisory Board will propose design standards to councilmen in the coming months.