Beach Area Civic Association Update

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Bay Harbour & TPI on Agenda

The proposed San Carlos Island Bay Harbour Marina Village, upcoming budget for the Town of Fort Myers Beach and an update by TPI Hospitality for Fort Myers Beach downtown redevelopment were among the items reviewed by roughly ten people at the Bay Area Civic Association (BACA) meeting in Bonita Bill’s Waterfront Café community room on Thursday evening, May 23.

“There is no significant development on Bay Harbour,” said BACA president Charlie Whitehead. “They submitted their revised plan in April, and to my knowledge the County has not responded, nor requested anything new, but I assume they will have to submit something under either the Destination Resort or Central Urban land use plans, although there is no time limit on that.”

Nick White felt that a County Commissioner deadline would be pointless, “because even if they threw that one out, Bay Harbour could just forward a new proposal. Going this long suggests they will go the Destination Resort route,” though Charlie thinks they are a half-acre short of qualifying for that, unless they have another contiguous buyer, “so we need to pay attention to see who might sell.”

Nick said the Lee County staff told the developer to correct the problems pointed out by Lee County Hearing Examiner Laura Belflower in her ruling against the original Bay Harbour plan for having too much density and being incompatible with the commercial fishing corridor of San Carlos Island. “If they do not correct all the illegalities, then any updated proposal remains illegal; we only need one and it’s out.”

Count to Three

Charlie reminded the group that the Lee Board of County Commissioners has the final determination, and “we need to count to three to kill off the Comp Plan Amendment, and I feel good we can get that number of votes.” Nick, however, was unsure: “They did not show a lot of intestinal fortitude the last time this came before them; instead of taking an immediate vote then, they kicked it back to the staff to tweak it minutely and run it up the flagpole again, as the Lee County Commissioners’ policy is ‘develop, no matter what.’ Our most powerful argument we have is it does not belong here, no matter how much they sing and dance.”

Charlie reported that Bay Harbour developer Jack Mayher attended the recent Estero Island Taxpayer Association (EITA) meeting and had a back-&-forth exchange with Fort Myers Beach Mayor Dennis Boback, the EITA speaker that evening, concerning the Town’s opposition to his plan, particularly its proposed 500 car parking garage. “Jack wanted to know why the Town is against his project,” Charlie said, “and the Mayor told him because it will bring more traffic, and that is major island issue.”

In referring again to Mayor Boback’s EITA appearance, Charlie has an issue with one item from that discussion: “The Mayor talked about the Town millage for the upcoming budget, and said the Mound House, Newton Park, Bay Oaks Recreation Center, Town pool and anchorage budgets go up every year. This is the umpteenth time the Town repeats this factually inaccurate statement, to make folks think they are pouring money into a hole, as the Bay Oaks budget does not go up every year. This is a sore point for me as a Bay Oaks advocate; I understand the need to squeeze nickels and adhere to a budget, but we need to stick to a factual basis so we all start with the same advantage. I know the Town Council is looking to save every nickel, just as I will be looking to save every nickel I can for Bay Oaks.”

There is no new report on the San Carlos Boulevard traffic study by the Florida Department of Transportation since it cancelled its previously-scheduled meeting last Winter, with no new date to take its place.

Charlie asked audience member John Gucciardo, spokesperson for TPI Hospitality, to review the status of its Downtown Fort Myers Beach redevelopment application. “The Town completed its initial review and requested we provide them roughly 15 items for further clarification. We met individually with the Town staff, to get a feel for their language, then followed up with our planners and design people, who went over everything with the staff. This week, we are putting our responses together in writing. My impression is there really wasn’t anything they did not get, or feel is a deal breaker. From there it will go to the Local Planning Agency (LPA), then to Town Council for the final decision. My best guess is the LPA will receive it in September, though the Town will dictate the timeline.”

The next BACA meeting is Tuesday, July 11, in the Bonita Bill’s community room at 6:30 p.m.

 

Gary Mooney