Welcome back to our seasonal visitors. Mid-January usually is the time when our seasonal visitors begin arriving in waves. Some have been here since October, but the largest mass arrives about now to settle into their sunlit homes to watch the ice and blizzard warnings back home between long walks on the beach. We’re glad you’re here! A lot has been happening on the beach over the last few months.
The Estero Boulevard projects continue. Seasonal visitors are probably more able to see the progress than those of us who have been here every day. For the most part the section from Crescent Street to Carolina Street (by Hooters) is done. The rest of Phase 1, which stretches to Lovers Lane, just past Sea Grape Plaza, is due to wrap up by the end of March. I know you heard, we all heard, that Phase 1 would be done by the end of 2016. Unfortunately a couple of hurricanes pulled away all the utility workers just when our project needed the utilities moved. The project is actually two projects: a replacement of waterlines by the Town and a replacement of sewer lines, storm water lines and finally new sidewalks and pavement by Lee County. Various utility companies must move their lines in the process. The consensus has been that the hardest part was the oldest – the downtown area. Phase 2 will run from Lover’s Lane to Madera, just south of Publix and is expected to take 14-18 months with completion Fall 2018. Phase 3 from Madera to Albatross is expected to be worked on from Fall 2018 to early 2020 with the final Phase 4 work beginning after that. While it seems like a really long time, remember that not that long ago we were told 10-12 years for the whole project, so anything less than that is a plus. For more details see this week’s “ A Little Help From Our Friends” story.
We will not end up with more lanes, but we will have wide sidewalks on both sides of the road and shared lanes for bicycles in the first segment. The center turn lane/emergency lane will remain. Outside of the narrow 50-foot right of way in the downtown area, there will be marked bike lanes.
Time Square Resorts
After Tom Torgerson pulled TPI’s Grand Resorts Fort Myers Beach plan off the table last spring, he began working to create a new concept, inviting those who criticized the plan and those who liked it to weigh in. The result is a new concept deemed Times Square Resorts. It has a hotel resort located on the bay side of Estero where Helmerich Plaza now sits with a beach club on the Gulf side. There is no re-routing of Estero Blvd, no public parking garage, no coastal protection system and Crescent Beach Family Park remains as is. The old Seafarers property owned by the county, would be part of the project so before the Town can act on an application, the county has to weigh in. The county has said they won’t weigh in until the Town does. And around and around it goes. To see the new concept and status go to www.tpi-fmb.com
Three Town Council seats, a majority, are on the ballot in March. Candidates must qualify to be on the ballot by noon Friday, March 20th so by Friday afternoon, we’ll all know who is running. The primary question seems to be who is interested in equipping our Town for the future and who is looking more backward than forward. Look for new voices in the campaign season this year – those who hold over 80% of the Town’s taxable real estate and therefore pay over 80% of the Town’s taxes, but don’t live here full time and therefore can’t vote.
San Carlos Island Development
Bay Harbour, a project planned for the old Compass Rose Marina on Main Street continues to be a concern for local residents. After drawing enough public comment, most of it negative, to need four days of hearings last summer and getting a bad review from the Lee County Hearing Examiner, it now sits in the County Commissioner’s in-basket awaiting a decision.
Another project, called Ebb Tide, planned for further down Main Street already holds approvals. It, along with the Bay Harbour and Times Square Resorts projects, has raised concerns about traffic overload on San Carlos Blvd. Enough concern that the Town recently heard from the State of Florida Department of Transportation on how they could lessen the traffic burden with new lanes and new traffic lights. Don’t look for them to do any of that anytime soon on the road they own though. They’ll probably need another half dozen studies first.
After last January’s record rain and subsequent Lake Okeechobee water releases, the heat has stayed on local, state and federal lawmakers to find a long-term solution to the problem. There are as many “best” solutions as there are stakeholders, but it seems most efforts are focused on a plan to send excess Lake O water south with treatment and filtering before it reaches the Everglades. That plan now has a champion in Florida State Senate President Joe Negron. Sitting on the opposite side of the issue are the Governor, Governor-appointed South Florida Water Management District, Army Corps of Engineers and agricultural interests, including Big Sugar. Negron is going to need a lot of help to bring down this Goliath.
Did I miss a topic you’re interested in? Go to FortMyersBeach.news and search for it to see what’s been happening on the beach.