The Town of Fort Myers Beach Council met on Monday morning, August 21, on numerous issues, including a potential Fort Myers Beach survey, approving a Neighborhood Flooding Ordinance, and whether to hire a Town representative to monitor reFRESH Estero Boulevard Projects.
Under the Beach Survey topic, Lee County is surveying the north and south ends of Fort Myers Beach for dredging project purposes, according to Town staff. It would cost $7,000 to fill in the three-mile center gap. A complete Estero Island survey could be beneficial for future dredging projects and other issues, with a potential Tourist Development Council (TDC) reimbursement.
“I don’t see the value, as my beachfront changes constantly,” said Council Member Joanne Shamp. “Unless we have a specific project, we should keep the money in the Beach Renourishment Fund.”
“I understand the beach changes from time to time,” countered Council Member Bruce Butcher, “but engineering a good baseline would be worthwhile. When we talk about our strategy, we talk about the beach.”
“This is not a new expenditure,” added Council Member Anita Cereceda, “and our Stormwater and Environmental Technician recommends this and she is our expert. This is likely refundable from the TDC so I support it.” Council then approved the $7,000 expenditure 4 to 1, with Shamp Against.
Council discussed the 2nd Public Reading of the Neighborhood Flooding Ordinance that would add language for a 67% impervious surface limitation as well as design standards for quantity of water maintained on-site to one inch of rainfall on an interior lot and 1-1/2 inches on a water lot. “You must design it to not flood your neighbor out,” explained Vice Mayor Tracey Gore. “If your house is so built out that it floods out your neighbor, that is your problem to fix it. We really need to go back and get an inventory of those houses to fix this.” “I agree,” said Cereceda, “as this only changes the future; it does not rectify the past.” Council unanimously passed the Ordinance.
Under Administrative Agenda, Council considered a Town Water & Stormwater Infrastructure Construction Inspector for the reFRESH Estero Boulevard Projects. “My biggest surprise in my 90 days here with the Town is our current situation where we have one entity serving as the stormwater engineer, doing stormwater master plans, the stormwater project design and the construction inspector,” said Town Manager Roger Hernstadt, referring to Tetra Tech Engineering. “In my long career, I have never seen that. This is not to say we have any issues with the firm, but we can have our own independent inspector while saving at least $25,000 annually.”
“This is an excellent idea,” said Butcher. “We need an independent view, and the cherry on top is the cost savings, as when you spend millions you want it to be done perfectly.” “This is kind-of like the project manager which we have been lacking,” added Gore. “This is a very good idea, especially since the wages come from the Stormwater and not General Fund.” “This is what is missing with this project,” added Shamp. “This is a ‘Win-Win’ situation.” “The Town gains an independent person with significant savings,” concluded Mayor Dennis Boback, “so this a no-brainer,” with Council unanimously approving the position.
Under Town Manager Items, Hernstadt presented the 2018 preliminary budget prior to Council discussing it at its upcoming Public Budget Hearings on Thursdays, September 7 & 21, at 6:30 p.m., with it on the Town website at fmbgov.com. “We do not yet know the status of the Bay Oaks Recreation Center,” he said, referring to ongoing discussions with Lee County, “so we proceed under the theory it will remain under Town stewardship.”
In other items, Council unanimously overruled an Administrative Decision that prohibited more than a single driveway access at 3360 / 3370 Estero Boulevard; unanimously passed a motion to allow the Town Manager to negotiate with Passport Parking for a mobile Pay By Phone application for Town-owned parking meters that may eventually allow visitors to locate available parking spaces as well as make mobile payments; and unanimously approved the Noise Ordinance that limits non-residential trash and recyclable collections from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Thrown Out With The Bathwater
Early in the session, Council heard from Jennifer Hecker, Executive Director of the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP), who requested the Town again be a financial supporter, from between $2,000 to $5,000. “The Town was a CHNEP founding member and actively involved until a few years ago. We brought over $600,000 in projects to Fort Myers Beach, and you would be hard-pressed to find a higher return on your investment.”
“This got thrown out with the bathwater,” said Gore. “The CHNEP is in our Comp Plan and I support them.” “I agree with Tracey,” said Cereceda. “We need a regional approach to water issues.” “I am a supporter as well,” said Shamp; “it is unfortunate we let it lapse, as we need to work together with other communities to make a stand.”
Under Council Member Items, Gore requested, as on several previous occasions, that the Town televise its Special Magistrate Hearings. “I do not support this,” said Cereceda. “It is not relevant to policy making and is not constructive to the Town.” Boback said he “has no problem with this, as long as it is of little to no cost to the Town, but if there is, I will not support it.” Cereceda and Shamp suggested Council put this on a future Management & Planning Session to help council come to a final decision.
Finally, Gore encouraged island residents to examine whether they qualify for the three Homestead Exemption Ordinances Council unanimously passed in April 2017. “I am a hardcore conservative over taxes, and I speak to people on fixed incomes about these, so see if you qualify,” as that might offset any increase considered by the Town for 2018. On April 17, 2017, council passed Ordinances 17-05, 17-06 and 17-07 providing additional homestead exemptions for those 65 and older and additional exemptions for homesteaded low-income seniors who have been permanent residents of their home for at least 25 years. Details can be found at FMBgov.com.
Council will hold their next meeting on Thursday, September 7, at 6:30 p.m.