Commissioners Honor Aquatic Preserve, Fund Estero Planning

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Lee County Commissioners recognized the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve with a proclamation on the organization’s upcoming 50th anniversary in December. Terry Cain, Stephanie Erickson, and Nancy Kilmartin accepted on behalf of the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve, with Kilmartin stating that “it is incredible to be back before the County Commissioners to receive this, as you made a similar tribute on our 40th anniversary. It is remarkable to think that back over 50 years ago, people in our area had the foresight to journey to Tallahassee to establish the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve as the pilot project for all similar programs in the State of Florida.”

Under Agenda Items, Commissioners approved the Accelerating Design Services for the Remaining Segments of Estero Boulevard, with $1,381,275 from the Enterprise Fund and $3,722,985 from Transportation Capital Improvement. This will pay for design services and Supplemental Task Authorization No. 2 with David Douglas Associates for professional engineering and consulting for Segments 3 through 6 of the Estero Boulevard Corridor Improvement totaling $5,104,260. It provides professional engineering and consulting services for roadway plans, utility coordination, and production of sewer mains relocation plans, lighting and signal design, drainage, landscaping, cost estimates, public involvement during the design phase, and post-design services for Segments 3 to 6.

Of the 6-segment process for roadway, waterline, and sanitary sewer work on Estero Boulevard, the 1st is under construction and near completion, the 2nd is in design and underway, with funding secure for Segments 2 through 4, and Segments 5 and 6 set for the next cycle. The total project cost estimate is $81,420,141.

Under Manager Items, Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais stated that TPI Hospitality recently made a public presentation on its latest redevelopment plan for the Downtown region of Fort Myers Beach, with a portion involving Lee County property – the former Seafarer’s Mall. To make this concept a reality, the developer will need to swap land for county-owned property. Desjarlais wants to be clear that any such conversations are premature, as the Town has yet to receive a development plan, and only it can request a public service claim to swap land.

No Dog in This Fight
Desjarlais reports that TPI Hospitality did send a letter to Lee County asking it to join them in a joint application to the Town, and it is legal for Lee County to do so without any future obligation to the project, but he advises the County Commissioners against this. Not only has the Town yet to review any application but it has made no such request of Lee County or its staff. It is up to the Town to determine if any potential land swap of equal value is necessary for a public purpose. He emphasizes that from the County point-of-view, “we have no dog in this fight yet.”

Commissioner and former Town of Fort Myers Beach mayor Larry Kiker concurred, saying that “I quite agree that the onus is on the Town to debate and discuss this topic. Until then, we really don’t have a lot to talk about. Fort Myers Beach has the ball, and between transportation, traffic, parking, and bicycle and pedestrian issues, they have not had the opportunity to really map everything out in terms of their ask.” Desjarlais emphasizes that there are no ongoing discussions with the developer, saying that “there are no back room deals – there simply is not!” The Lee County Attorney’s Office reinforced that land swaps by Florida statute involve a public notice followed by a public hearing before County Commissioners could approve any such proposal.

The meeting began with District 1 Commissioner John Manning becoming the new Chair of the County Commissioners, with District 2’s Cecil Pendergrass the Vice Chair. County Commissioners rotate the Chair and Vice Chair based on District numbers.

Gary Mooney