Council Addresses Zoning, Water, Variance

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Time With Mom’s

It was Ladies Night with Town Council on Tuesday, February 21! With Mayor Dennis Boback on an excused absence, the dais was all female, with Council displaying rare unanimity, cordiality, and with the exception of one item, brevity! Perhaps it was appropriate then, the Women’s Only session spent most of their time with Mom’s!

Under the final reading to rezone Mom’s Restaurant at 2450 Estero Boulevard, the business requested rezoning to Commercial Planned Development to accommodate the 1,220 square-foot with outdoor seating space, from its previous use as a retail store. Staff finds it appropriate to grant rezoning, as did the Local Planning Agency (LPA).

Council member Tracey Gore stated if Mom’s does not receive approval, it can still remain open as a bakery and sell sticky buns, but must close the restaurant. “I have an issue with parking that requires at least 8 spaces. Our Code says you have to have so many spaces and cannot be intrusive to the surrounding neighborhood, so I have an issue in changing the zoning into something bigger than just a ‘Ma & Pa’ shop.”

Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros, who chaired the session in the absence of Mayor Boback, said “parking is my concern as well; can the owner enter into an agreement to rent additional spaces during season if we make that a condition.” Council member Joanne Shamp would like Mom’s to agree that it will not seek a liquor license, with Gore adding a restriction against outdoor musical entertainment, “but we must settle parking; I am sticking on this because we need to be fair to the other such sites on the island.”

Gore next addressed business hours, noting Mom’s can remain open until 10 p.m., and then asking, “How late can they be open, because of the neighborhood behind them?” Mom’s owner Heather Reagan replied “we are open at the very latest to 4 p.m., and we will agree to that,” with Council allowing her to now open at 7 a.m., or an hour earlier. Council member Anita Cereceda asked Heather to be certain about these, “because once we put them in there, those are your hours – period!”

 

National Sticky Buns Day!

Shamp said “Code enforcement should mean Code compliance, but I am comfortable with this and the Comp Plan supports it; I am totally onboard as long as we impose the discussed conditions.” Gore added “I agree with Joanne, and am happy with the way we worked this out.” Cereceda congratulated her colleagues, saying “Council should find a way to make this plan successful to help a small business; that is our job.” Mom’s rezoning then unanimously passed, concluding the 90-minute debate, and providing a happy ending to National Sticky Buns Day, as Heather gleefully informed Council!

In earlier topics, Council received the Marine Resources Task Force advisory committee report on water quality testing for Fort Myers Beach. Chairman Bill Veach said “looking into water quality is complicated! A lot of testing already occurs in the Back Bay, with Clean Beaches for Florida looking for bacteria. Most bad readings do not occur after Lake Okeechobee releases, but spikes after large usages by people and birds who are unclean. Preemptive warnings may be better than actual testing that can take up to 48 hours, as this can be an asset to the Town as well as a warning to people.”

The Marine Resources Task Force recommends the Town establish a beach condition webpage, budget a small amount for water quality testing when necessary, update the Town Fertilizer Ordinance including an educational component for the general public, and continue the environmental aspects of the Comp Plan. Shamp “totally supports all you say here. When we wrote the Fertilizer Ordinance in 2008, landscapers were to have permits to conform to our code, but when I speak to them about this today they are not even aware of it, so education needs to be a part of that plan.”

 

New Info Came to Light

Council next decided the variance requested by Rebecca Duffey for her cantilevered second-floor balcony she already constructed during Summer 2016, that it carried over from its February 6 meeting to gather more information. Matt Noble of the Town Community Development Department said that despite Staff’s initial recommendation and the LPA vote to deny it, “enough new information has come to light that I am comfortable that if you grant this variance it will not be an issue.”

Shamp said “I shared the initial staff concerns but there is enough new information that I am comfortable approving this.” Cereceda called it “a unique situation; I was ready to support it two weeks ago and will now.” The Vice Mayor said she “struggled with this, but I look at the new information and can approve this,” with the motion passing unanimously.

In other matters, Council voted unanimously to contract with The Collins Law Group to represent it in the Little Estero Island Critical Wildlife Area boardwalk litigation; approved the Employee On-Call Pay Policy; accept the Interim Town Manager’s recommendation for On-Going Professional Services for Environmental Assessments and Marine Engineering; approved the special permits for the Shrimp Fest and Nervous Nellie’s St. Patrick’s Day event; agreed to an Interlocal Billing Service Fee with Lee County for Potable Water, including a back payment to the Town for $105,000 discovered by the Interim Town Manager: “This screams of Jim Steele,” said the Vice Mayor in compliment to the Interim Town Manager who will soon retire. “This says all you need to know about him and his service to our Town,” with Gore adding “Jim Steele Rocks!”

The Interim Town Manager reported that there are 77 applicants for the Fulltime Town Manager position, with their information in the Town Hall lobby for public review. Council unanimously authorized the new Town Attorneys to represent it in litigation against the housing construction on Fort Myers Beach that exceeded the setback line near Junkanoo On The Beach, before adjourning at 10:21 p.m.

Gary Mooney