Bay Harbour Blues

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    The San Carlos Redevelopment Corporation met with roughly 40 people at Bonita Bill’s Café community room at 702 Fisherman’s Wharf on Thursday, November 10, at 6 p.m. Joanne Semmer and Charlie Whitehead discussed the Bay Harbour Marina Village Project, reviewed the Lee County Hearing Examiner denying the project’s zoning and variance application, and the Lee Board of County Commissioner meeting to address the Land Management Plan and rezoning on Wednesday, November 16, at 9:30 a.m.

    Joanne and Charlie stated that despite the Hearing Examiner’s negative determination and the Local Planning Agency denial, Lee County staff recommends the Bay Harbour Marina Village project. Charlie cautioned that even if County Commissioners deny it, the developer could refile again at a later date. They feel the County Commissioners should refuse this over density, intensity, height and traffic while reviewing redevelopment for San Carlos Island and the adjacent corridor to Summerlin Road.Joanne Semmer

    “If the Commissioners allow this here, they will allow it on both sides of San Carlos Boulevard to Summerlin, and imagine that traffic,” concludes Charlie. “This is what you do with density in Hong Kong or New York City, not San Carlos Island. We need to convince the County Commissioners to abide by the process since two groups in the system already ruled in our favor.”

    Size Matters

    Bay Harbour Marina Village is designed to be a 14-story residential building with 113 rental units, 38 for “workforce” or “moderate income” housing, with a 286-space boat barn and 520-car indoor-outdoor parking garage, plus four residential townhouses.

    According to Southern Comfort Storage, LLC, the developer, “the entire project will be well-landscaped, have its own stormwater treatment ability and contain subdued, turtle-friendly lighting.” If allowed, the residential building at 175 feet would be taller than the Matanzas Pass Bridge and Diversified Yacht. The Oak & Main Streets site was home for years to Compass Rose Marina until Hurricane Charley destroyed it in 2004.

    Laura Bellflower, a Lee County hearing examiner, issued a scathing 53-page report against Bay Harbour Marina Village. Hearing examiners are local administrative agency employees who serve as judges to resolve conflicts in their jurisdiction. The hearing examiner’s ruling is not final, but it is a neutral place for development plans before reaching the Lee County Board of County Commissioners for a vote.

    Whitehead said he believes that a ruling in favor of the Bay Harbour Marina Village will be “precedent-setting. If Commissioners approve this, it will be so much easier for the next one.” He said there remain numerous legal avenues available to the group “but we want to make these immaterial by having the County Commissioners rule in our favor from the beginning.” He offered that the Fort Myers Beach Town Council repeated its opposition to the project and will send its principal planner Wednesday to pledge that support.

    The developer’s request includes a Lee Plan amendment and rezoning, from marine and light industrial, commercial, and mobile home residential to mixed use planned development. The Lee Board of County Commissioners will decide whether to allow the amendment. If they approve the amendment, they will then hear Bay Harbour’s rezoning request. Conversely, they could return it to the hearing examiner to address the report’s multiple concerns.
    Last November, over 100 residents packed the Moose Lodge to hear the Bay Harbour Marina Village plan, with many Beach Are Civic Association in December 2015 to discuss neighborhood and quality of life issues on Sand Carlos and Estero Islands.

    DOT & TPI

    In other matters, Whitehead reported on the Department of Transportation (DOT) San Carlos Boulevard traffic study on roundabouts, traffic signals, congested areas and pedestrian overpasses to ease Fort Myers Beach roadways at the Town Council Workshop on Monday, November 7. DOT hopes to make a formal presentation to the general public in February or March 2017.

    He next discussed the latest TPI Hospitality proposal for Downtown Fort Myers Beach redevelopment on Monday, November 7. A potential issue is density, as they anticipate 330 rooms. The Town may expect the plan in December.

    Whitehead, with assistance from Joanne Shamp, stated that the Town received over 160 applications for the new Bay Oaks Recreation Center director, with 146 having at least an Associate’s degree with 62 in the recreation field. Of that group, 67 have Master’s degrees with 32 in the field. A Town committee is meeting to begin the hiring process.

    Charlie introduced Ron Fleming, elected on Tuesday, November 8, to the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District, and reintroduced Joanne Shamp, who will apply for the open Fort Myers Beach Town Council seat with the resignation of Vice Mayor Summer Stockton on November 30, 2016, as well as be a candidate in the March 2017 election.

    The next community meeting will be in Bonita Bill’s Café community room on Thursday, December 1, at 6 p.m. For more information, contact Joanne Semmer at 239-470-4993.
    Gary Mooney