The Magnificent Seven
The Beach Area Civic Association (BACA) met for its annual business meeting at Bonita Bill’s Waterfront Café community room on Thursday, January 19.
BACA requires a 7-person Board of Directors, with its four officers selected from that group. President Charlie Whitehead reported “there are currently two openings on the Board that affect two offices, as the vice president and secretary are vacant.” He requested the five remaining board members to stand again, and accepted nominations to fill the vacancies.
Treasurer Gayle Mason, board members-at-large Roland Blakeley and Lowell Weaver, with Charlie as president, all agreed to serve another term, with Charlie having the proxy of board member-at-large John Youngworth, with all receiving unanimous approval. Charlie nominated Larry Cribbs to be the sixth board member, stating he is on the Emily Lane Association Board, so he is familiar with community organizations. He received unanimous approval, with Charlie next nominating Larry to be vice president, again with unanimous approval.
“BACA bylaws call for seven board members,” Whitehead explained, “but currently we do not have anyone interested in filling this spot or serving as Secretary. If no one objects, I will begin the search to fill those seats. There is no statute against one person performing two offices, so until we find that person, I volunteer to be acting Secretary as well as President. Until we install the seventh person, we will muddle through with six.”
Following this, the group discussed meeting at different locations, including on Fort Myers Beach, because it can be difficult in Season to park at Bonita’s Bill’s, as well as to conduct business over the music and noise from the adjacent entertainment area.
BACA will file its appropriate 501c4 paperwork, with Whitehead commenting that this designation “is just like a 501c3, except we can do politicking!” Membership renewals are going out, for $25-a-year. “We collect dues,” Whitehead explained, “For long-term considerations, should we need an attorney or planner to ensure our best interests.”
TSR, FDOT & Bay Harbour
John Gucciardo of TPI Hospitality reported the Town of Fort Myers Beach Council sent a request letter to Lee County to sign on as an adjacent property owner so it can begin the process to provide Times Square Resorts a public proposal platform, but to date there is no response. (Lee County failed to take any action on the TPI project at their Tuesday meeting.)
Whitehead reported the Florida Department of Transportation would make its report to the Metropolitan Planning Organization concerning its San Carlos Boulevard traffic study on Friday morning, January 20, with a public meeting at Chapel By The Sea on Thursday, February 23.
He recently met with Jack Myers, one of the owners of the proposed Bay Harbour development, to discuss the project. “We listened to him and vice versa, to get our concerns on the table, as should have happened at the very start. In years’ past, developers met with community groups before submitting applications. The next time we hear from them will hopefully be when they make a presentation to our entire group so we can have a positive back-&-forth exchange. We may still hate the final proposal but let’s try to work together to come up with something that works for them and us, because it is a bad option to hire attorneys.”
One positive aspect from the meeting concerned zoning, as Bay Harbour initially requested Central Urban, the 2nd most intensive in Lee County and “one that scares the bejesus out of us,” Charlie reports. “If they receive this, we foresee high-rises all the way down San Carlos Boulevard, from Summerlin Road to the Matanzas Pass Bridge, and the developers did not anticipate this. Now they are considering the Destination Resort Category over the current Light Industrial.”
Even though every decision to date, from the Local Planning Agency to the Lee County Hearing Examiner ruled against Bay Harbour, “Lee County Commissioners remanded it at the applicant’s request because they have a wide leeway – it is that pure and simple. Perhaps Bay Harbour actually did us a favor, as now we are so much more educated about the process than last year.”
Whitehead said the Bay Harbour team is currently reworking its proposal, with “my guess being the next plan will look nothing like the old one. They invested heavily in this and have the right to do something there, but they now know it is better to submit an idea we will support rather than fighting us. Both sides need to accept that the final result will not be what either side totally wants but something we can all tolerate.”
BACA will meet again on Thursday, February 9, tentatively at the Bonita Bill’s community room, at 6:30 p.m.