During the Fort Myers Town Council meeting Monday, October 3, they held four public hearings, approving the designation of subscription parking along Donora Boulevard and denying it along Palermo Circle.
At the beginning of the meeting council issued a Proclamation recognizing LIONS World Sight Day as October 13, 2016. The Fort Myers Beach Lions Club collected 3,000 pairs of eyeglasses to be repurposed last year and sponsored eye screening for about 12,000 students through their Sight for Students program. They have helped 115 adults receive eye care and surgery in 2015-2016.
Paula Schuttera, FMB Lions Secretary told council that the club, the sponsor of Shrimp Festival, which raises over $45,000 for local causes, has been a member of the community for 65 years and really needs the community’s help to continue, adding that the club has about 10 able bodies to help work Shrimp Festival. She invited members of the community to join the club and help continue this valuable community service club.
Town Council considered an Interlocal Agreement with Lee County regarding well permitting. Lee County provides this service to the Town since its inception without an Interlocal Agreement, and is now seeking such documents from all jurisdictions including Fort Myers Beach. Once the Town signs it, there will not be any cost for County services, other than permit seekers paying the appropriate fees and charges. There are 60 to 90 new wells annually on Fort Myers Beach, most defined as geothermal holes to pull from one to another in a closed-loop system for building cooling and some irrigation. Council voted 5 to 0 to approve the Interlocal Agreement, with an added provision that the Town receives notification when permits are issued.
Under Public Hearings, Council heard the first of two readings to change its March 2017 election date. The Lee County Supervisor of Elections requested that the Town amend its ordinance from the second to the first Tuesday in March to consolidate all municipal elections on the same date in 2017. Council approved this 5-0, and set the second reading for their next meeting.
Next they heard the first public reading of Ordinance 16-07, concerning the Revenue Sharing Referendum. The Town in March 2016 held an election referendum to repeal the provisions of the Charter’s section 17.01. Subsequent to this successful election, the Town learned this could jeopardize its ability to obtain State revenue sharing funds in the event of a property value decline. The Florida Department of Revenue determined that reinstatement of the Charter’s 17.01 via a successful referendum would ensure the Town’s ability to meet the criteria for sharing in the state revenue funds in the future. Council approved this 5-0, and set the second reading for the next meeting.
Parking in Town ROW
Council considered the second public reading for the Town of Fort Myers Beach to consider Ordinance 16-05 to adopt provisions to clarify the regulations applicable to parking vehicles within the Town’s Right of Way (ROW) and upon Town property.
Council member Anita Cereceda said she couldn’t support this ordinance as she feels it is overkill and an overcorrection. Council member Tracey Gore agreed, saying it will discourage residents from even having guests over to their homes. Cereceda made a motion to table this issue until Council can meet with staff to clarify the ordinance. Council member Rexann Hosafros urged her colleagues not to delay the ordinance, as there is much in it that will benefit the Town. Vice Mayor Summer Stockton disagreed, saying Council should discuss this at its next workshop so everyone is on the same page.
Town legal counsel Dawn Lehnert suggested a third public reading at a later meeting. Cereceda agreed, saying they can discuss it in detail at the workshop on November 7 before the final reading at the November 21 Council meeting, meaning any ordinance delay will be brief.
The next item is the first reading of Ordinance 16-08, for Surplus Parking at area business lots. At its June 6 work session, Town Council directed staff to initiate an amendment to Division 26 of Chapter 34 of the Land Management Code to “provide adequate regulations for the renting of ‘excess’ parking spaces during peak periods.”
Mayor Dennis Boback said he does not understand why any Island business would sacrifice customer parking in exchange for surplus spots. Hosafros could see the benefit to a landlord, but that would be at the expense of tenants, specifically mentioning Key Estero Shops. Stockton indicated that when the Local Planning Agency reviewed the document, they did not do so in its entirety as they felt that was not their charge from Town Council.
Gore states that she reads the ordinance to mean that a business must have 10 or more excess parking spaces to qualify, so that will eliminate most from consideration as generally people beg for additional parking, especially in season. She said that Fort Myers Beach is a small community and should not overregulate everything, including parking. There are already statutes in place to monitor this, if the Town will enforce them rather than adding another layer of bureaucracy. Cereceda agreed, saying this is just another hurdle that will not solve anything, and this is not the right time for this ordinance.
Stockton made a motion to return the ordinance to the Local Planning Agency, with instruction to review the parking situation in its entirety, with passage of 4-1 with Hosafros against.
Lehnert brought a special agenda item forward that requires Council’s immediate attention, and introduced Rae Blake, environmental & stormwater technician for the Town of Fort Myers Beach. Blake told council that she had just learned that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was about to issue a permit for a private boardwalk that would be built over the Critical Wildlife Area at the south end of Estero Island. This request is from property owners who cannot access the beach directly due to the wetland. She has a concern not only about this boardwalk, but that it will set a precedent for future projects. Blake reports that once the DEP grants its approval, the local government has just two weeks to issue its opinion. She explained that while approval comes from the DEP, the Town must issue the construction permit.
Hosafros made a motion to immediately protest this decision to the DEP, and to direct staff to initiate appropriate measures; the motion passed 5 to 0.
Under Administrative Agenda, Town Right of Way Subscription Parking Designations, Donora Boulevard and Palermo Circle have ROW that abut property owners that expressed an interest in leasing the town owned space. According to Chapter 28, Traffic and Vehicles, of the Town Code of Ordinances, Council must designate areas as subscription parking first before considering a lease. Once approved, businesses may lease the ROW under Administrative Code 1-1: Transportation of Right of Ways.
Interim Town Manager James Steele reported that two businesses wish to lease parcels for subscription parking, and Town Council must designate these zones for the process to proceed. The Red Coconut RV Park would like a parcel on Donora Boulevard for up to 31 parking spaces, while The Beached Whale desires one on Palermo Circle. Hosafros asked to separate these two issues and Council agreed.
Hosafros made a motion to approve the designation for subscription parking for Donora Boulevard for up to 31 parking spaces, and the motion passed 5 to 0.
Stockton made a motion to deny the Beached Whale request. She sees no way the space in the Palermo Circle triangle can be of use for parking or any other purpose. Hosafros thought there was a potential for a turn lane to alleviate traffic and confusion at that congested intersection.
Cereceda suggested that this is a real opportunity to turn that area into a showpiece for appearance as well as safety by working with the business owner on the ROW use, and encouraged Council to examine this possibility before refusing the request. A comprehensive plan could solve many issues and concerns. Gore countered that the Town can do that type of plan itself, without the business owner.
Town Council voted 3-2 to deny the Palermo Circle right-of-way designation, with Boback, Stockton and Gore voting against.
During Public Comment, Judy Haataja urged council to carefully consider any parking restrictions and avoid putting any more authority in the hands of Public Works.
Council made appointments to six Advisory Boards and voted 5-0 to ‘sunset’ the Public Safety Committee, until after the Estero Blvd construction project is complete.
Council approved a special event permit application for the Santini Plaza Recurring Farmer’s Market from November 1, 2016, through April 25, 2017 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. by a 5 to 0 vote.
The next Town Council meeting was scheduled for Monday, October 24 at 6:30 p.m., as the originally scheduled date of October 17 would have three members absent.
FMB Advisory Boards
James Rodwell – Chair
Keri Hendry Weeg*
Natasha Jamison: October 2017
Mary Rose Spalletta
Keri Hendry Weeg *
Historic Advisory Committee
*Appointed for 2-year terms on October 3, 2016