Tempers flared at Monday night’s Town Council meeting, as members found themselves once again split on stormwater issues and recurring special events.
During Public Comment, Barbara Hill spoke in favor of raising the millage rate to .9.
“In addition to providing core social services for our citizens, our residents deserve parks and recreation,” she said. “Bay Oaks needs a director, the 0.9 millage rate makes this possible and represents good government.”
Members of the South Florida Clean Water Movement then asked Council to sign the ‘Now Or Neverglades Declaration. Councilmembers Tracey Gore, Rexann Hosafros and Anita Cereceda said they’d already signed it, Vice-Mayor Summer Stockton said she would and Mayor Dennis Boback did not comment.
During Advisory Committees Items, Dave Anderson spoke on behalf of the Bay Oaks Recreation Campus Advisory Board (BORCAB).
“We have some solutions: Sanibel has a 3-way split with the county and the School Board – we’d like you to look into that,” he said. “With your permission, we are going to look to the Friends of Bay Oaks to help with marketing, programs and things they can do. We’d also like you to engage a commission-based marketing group to look for a big sponsor. Lastly, signage for Bay Oaks is severely lacking and with the new homes being built on the Reef property you can no longer see the slide. We’d like you to consider opening up an entrance on Gulf Beach Road so Bay Oaks has a second entrance.”
On the Consent Agenda, Council member Tracey Gore pulled an item that would transfer $835,432 in gas tax funds to pay for stormwater improvements, saying she ‘doesn’t want to move it until we figure out where we’re going with the stormwater utility’.
Interim Town Manager Jim Steele pointed out that those funds are needed to pay overdue bills to the Town’s vendors, and that the Town paved many streets in the Laguna Shores and basin-based neighborhoods – something that qualifies it to be used with gas tax money.
Gore also objected to a proposed sidewalk on Palermo, claiming the engineering costs bring the total to more than $25,000 – which is the amount that can be spend administratively.
“The balance of this $24,000 is a construction contract, it’s the same project but two different contracts,” said Town Attorney Dawn Lehnert.
“To me, its one project,” she said, and Lehnert apologized for the confusion.
Principal Planner Megan Will opened the public hearing on the new floodplain regulations by
saying she needs more time to determine how the Town’s flood insurance rating would be affected by changing the Town’s regulations regarding the 50% rule. She urged Council to pass the ordinance so that the Town can be brought in line with the state regulation code.
Councilmember Anita Cereceda asked how long she would need.
“For all of us who don’t have new homes on this island, this rule is very important,” she said, and Will replied that she could return to Council in October.
“However, this would go to the Local Planning Agency first.”
Local Planning Agency (LPA) Vice-Chair Joanne Shamp reported that her committee ‘was encouraged to move it forward’ at their meeting in July, and they agreed to do so in order to comply with the federal regulations but want to meet with Council to discuss the 50% rule. Council agreed 5-0 to pass the ordinance and to schedule a meeting with the LPA as soon as possible.
During the public hearing on the new special events ordinance, Chamber President Bud Nocera thanked Town staff for all their hard work.
“I think Eisenhower was president when we started working on this,” he said, laughing. “One of the few suggestions I’d make is to make it easy to do this online.”
Resident Joe Stockton said his one concern with the new ordinance is that some recurring annual events will not go before Council.
“By not bringing those to Council you are depriving the community, who may change their minds,” he said. “The importance of things going before Council is that our residents have the chance to weigh in and be heard by their peers.”
Council member Rexann Hosafros asked about the monthly shrimp dinners at St. Raphael’s, and Will replied that is not considered a special event.
After a great deal of back and forth over the section pertaining to recurring events, Gore finally made a motion to approve the ordinance provided that a section requiring neighbor notification within 500 feet of amplified sound – and the neighbors’ right to object – be placed back in. That section had been changed to require neighbor notification only if the sound would be exceeding the Town’s noise ordinance. The motion passed 3-2 (Cereceda, Hosafros dissenting).
Cereceda then made a motion to table amendments to the Stormwater Utility Fee Ordinance until staff can work on it more because consensus was not reached at the workshop held earlier.
Town Attorney Dawn Lehnert said she realizes that the biggest point of contention concerns the amount and what types of credits to apply to properties that already have some kind of stormwater system in place and asked for direction.
“I just need to know how much possible credit you would like us to apply before I rework the ordinance,” she said.
Hosafros said that the residents of Bay Beach need to know something concrete so they could stop coming to meetings.
“I would like the ordinance to name EBIA as not being part of our stormwater utility, or spell it out specifically,” she said, and Lehnert said she would draft language that does that.
Gore said she agreed but she’d also like to see an ‘inventory of all properties with stormwater systems’.
“I’d like to ‘repeal’ the entire utility,” she said.
When Lehnert explained that’s not the issue now, that she simply needs to know how much credit she supports, Gore said ‘up to 100% credits’. Boback disagreed but he was outvoted 4-1.
Lehnert said she’d return with a revised ordinance as soon as possible.
During a discussion on the Facilities Plan, Vice-Mayor Summer Stockton said she’d like to go to the LPA and ask them how to rework the Town’s codes so people would be required to put in things like swales and other natural water-efficient methods.
“Your first course of action might be to go the State Revolving Fund (SRF) and seek funding for the outfall streets (the streets where the county plans to connect their stormwater system to the Town’s),” said Nelson. “I fully agree with getting the public involved, but you’re going to have infrastructure that you’re going to have to deal with.”
The mayor asked if the Town could apply for grants without this plan, and Nelson replied yes but it would be a lot more difficult. He then called the question. Cereceda and Hosafros quickly said yes, Stockton hesitated and finally gave her approval and Boback said no, so the plan passed 3-2.
During the final public comment, Judy Haataja asked about the outflows.
“If a storm comes in, and it floods, will there be any outflow until the tide goes down?” she said. “I’m with Dennis – let’s do some streets and not all of them. If it drains, and there’s water left, then those are the streets that need it.”
During Council member’s Items, Cereceda said she’d like to look at Council’s Policies and Procedures Manual.
“If we’re not going to follow Robert’s Rules of Order, then perhaps we should remove it from our policy,” she said, and Hosafros agreed and asked Mayor Boback to start taking control of the meetings.
Stockton said she needs time to have her questions answered, and Hosafros said that the Town Manager has offered to meet with individual council members for as long as they want prior to the meetings.
“I think the mayor needs to recognize every one of us when it’s our turn to speak,” Hosafros concluded, and Boback agreed to do so.
Boback then said he’d like Council to put ‘some teeth’ into the Town’s fertilizer ordinance.
“I’d like (Environmental and Stormwater Technician) Rae Blake and (Code Enforcement Officer) Molly Jacobs to put together some kind of training video, and the first time they get caught they get fined $500, the second $1,000 and the third time they lose their license,” he said. The rest of Council agreed, and it will be added to the agenda.
Council also agreed to put together an ad hoc committee to look at what residents would like to see added to Crescent Beach and Lynn Hall Park – both of which are owned by Lee County but lie within the Town’s jurisdiction.
Hosafros asked Steele to look at Anderson’s suggestions for Bay Oaks.
Since it will be the first of two budget hearings, the next Council meeting will be held on Thursday, September 8 at 6:30pm at Town Hall, 2525 Estero Boulevard. For an agenda and/or complete video of this meeting, visit www.fortmyersbeachfl.gov.
Keri Hendry Weeg