Approves Sidewalk to Nowhere at Beached Whale
The Town Council of Fort Myers Beach continued a long day with its regular meeting on Monday, November 7, at 4 p.m., following Workshop and TPI Downtown redevelopment sessions. Topics included historic structure recognitions, a settlement with the Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina, and discussions on a sidewalk by The Beached Whale on Palermo Circle. Near the end of the meeting, Vice Mayor Summer Stockton and Interim Town Manager James Steele both announced their resignations, Stockton’s effective November 30 and Steele’s in March 2017.
George Repetti addressed Council during Public Comment about its inconsistent position regarding pervious versus impervious pavers between stormwater projects and the Estero Boulevard reconstruction, and criticized the paver installation.
Thomas Marrow discussed the Department of Transportation presentation from the morning Workshop, stating that a former town traffic committee studied many of the same proposals years earlier, including a traffic circle for the Times Square area, and brought those plans to Council. If they proceed with the traffic circle, it can do so with cost efficiency and it will work much better than “DOT’s cookie-cutter plan.”
Frank Willis spoke about a Workshop topic as well: the potential 2017-18 Tourist Development Funds projects, and Council’s apparent hesitancy to include ideas for beach access improvements that may displease access neighbors. He reminds Council that these are public lands to benefit all taxpayers and not adjacent property owners.
Principal Planner Matt Noble announced the awarding of two plaques through the Town’s Historic Structure’s Recognition Program, for 231 Pearl Street and 5664 Estero Boulevard. Keri Hendry Weeg reported that the Community Resources Advisory Board will host its Leadership Conference on Friday & Saturday, February 24 & 25, 2017, with Council invited to attend.
Chickee Huts & Sign Variance
The one item under Consent Agenda was a settlement agreement between the Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina, the Estero Island Beach Condominium Association and the Town concerning two chickee huts along the beach front of the Pink Shell nearest the Condominium Association property.
The Estero Island Beach Condominium Association filed a Circuit Court Complaint against the Town. Pink Shell obtained approval for six chickee huts but the Town approved construction of just four. The Town met with the Pink Shell and Condominium Association to remove the two nearest the Condominium Association. If the Town approves the Agreement, the Condominium Association will drop the complaint.
Council member Tracy Gore said she did not believe the Town had discussed this, and asked if it erred. Town legal counsel Dawn Lehnert said the Agreement does not require an admission of guilt, and removing the two huts will satisfy all three parties. She said it is a fair settlement that does not compromise the Town now or under future circumstances. Council approved the Agreement by a unanimous vote of 5-0.
Noel Davies, attorney for the Best Western Plus Beach Resort at 684 Estero Boulevard, requested Council approve a variance for its new 55-square-foot sign required by the corporate rebranding program. This size is larger than the 32-square-foot maximum allowed by the Town code but significantly smaller than the current one at 78-square-feet. He argued that the new sign meets the Exceptional & Extraordinary Circumstance requirements to receive the variance, and the Local Planning Agency already approved the request 5-0. Council passed the Best Western sign variance by unanimous vote 5-0.
Sidewalk to Nowhere
Council next discussed three sidewalk alternatives near The Beached Whale on Palermo Circle, with construction estimates from roughly $22,000 to $34,000. Gore asked why this item keeps coming back before Council, and Interim Town Manager Jim Steele replied that while Council approved a sidewalk, it did not review a site plan so he wants to assure they get what they want. A representative for The Beached Whale said they reviewed the designs; if Council selects Option #2, they have no objections, but if they favor Options #1 or #3, The Beached Whale requests additional time to review these concepts.
Council member Anita Cereceda said Option #2 is functional, the property owner can live with it, the engineers approved it and it is the least expensive. Mayor Dennis Boback disagreed, noting that the sidewalk leads to nowhere and people will literally trip over it. Vice Mayor Sumer Stockton countered that it is right where drivers pull in and out of The Beached Whale with no rhyme or reason so this should help provide direction. Council agreed to Option #2 by a 4-1 vote, with Mayor Boback against.
The Town discussed the formation of a Crescent Beach Family Park advisory committee to recommend improvements and additional uses for the site. Council member Rexann Hosafros said the Town already has the Community Resources Advisory Board and this could fall under their jurisdiction. Gore disagreed, saying this new committee would provide additional opportunities for citizens to serve. Cereceda stated that before they form the committee, the Town should determine if Lee County can assure the town that the park will exist in the next 5 years, arguing that “what the County plans for the park, no one knows.” She cannot support it because it is unfair to potential volunteers.
Council approved the establishment of Crescent Beach Family Park advisory committee by a 3-2 vote, with Cereceda and Hosafros against. Mayor Boback asked each Council member to name a representative at their November 21, 2016 meeting.
Cereceda commented that she still requires a representative for the Pedestrian & Bicycle Committee for the February – June 2017 time frame, and Stockton needs a volunteer as well. Any residents with an interest may contact either council member.
Under Public Comment, Bud Nocera, president of the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, reminded Council that the Fireworks Committee stands ready to issue check payments for the New Year’s Eve fireworks display and trolley service.
Interim Town Manager James Steele informed Council he is not a candidate for the fulltime position and tendered his letter of resignation effective March 2017. Stockton then also resigned, telling her colleagues that she “no longer has the time to devote to this position.” Boback set the date to fill the seat for Monday, December 5. Applications are due November 28, 2016.
The Mayor stated that he discussed Times Square safety with Captain Matt Powell of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, who assigned undercover deputies who have already removed 5 people. This will be a long-term, on-going enforcement that will include the Bay Oaks Recreation Center and other areas on the island, and will go a long way to resolve any security and safety concerns, said Boback.
Finally, Boback commented that since the Town is spending millions of dollars on Estero Boulevard, and with the initial segment near completion and looking marvelous, it should address the “nasty, crappy” newspaper boxes all over the area. He does not want to remove or disallow them, but regulate their placement.
With that, Council adjourned. Their next meeting will be Monday, November 21st at 6:30 p.m.