The Town of Fort Myers Beach Council met on Monday, December 5, to discuss potential Lee County Tourist and Development Council (TDC) projects for 2017-18, its search for a new Town Manager, and hosted a joint session with the Local Planning Agency (LPA).
Mound House Museum director Alison Giesen brought the Council potential projects for 2017-18 TDC money, including funds for 5 fulltime and 3 part-time positions for beach and shoreline maintenance, 2 replacement vehicles and one Bobcat to maintain beach accesses, and Mound House and Newton Beach Park improvements including better ADA-accessibility.
Capital improvement ideas include replacing old beach access signage, a new Palm Avenue comfort station, a kayak launch at the Bay Oaks Recreation Center, and a kayak launch and informational signage for the Virginia Avenue bay access. Council wants to examine whether it can use TCD funds to assist in stormwater runoff management, as the submission deadline is February 17, 2017.
Under the Land Development Code, Amendment Ordinance 16-09, Council discussed the Red Coconut RV Park setbacks, to reduce them from 20 to 5 feet from the paved right-of-way on the bay side along Donora Boulevard, and 5 feet from the right-of-way on Estero Boulevard on the Gulf. Council member Anita Cereceda noted that Red Coconut owner Fran Meyers was in attendance and asked her to address the issue.
Fran said the current 20-foot setback prevents the Red Coconut from having a fourth row of mobile homes, and has issues over parking for her guests on Donora Boulevard. Interim Town Manager James Steele said the Town only wants to rent the Red Coconut enough space on Donora so it pays for what it needs and no more. Fran said that can change nightly, but the Interim Town Manager replied the Town cannot carve it up each night; it must rent the space over its intended 5-month time frame.
Council member Tracey Gore asked if it were necessary to rush this, and the Interim Town Manager noted the Red Coconut starts to rent this by mid-December. She prefers the LPA address the matter prior to Council, but the other three members thought they could move forward the amendment since it requires two public meetings to become official, with council member Rexann Hosafros calling it “a good compromise.”
Council next addressed the selection a new fulltime Town Manager, as the Interim Town Manager hopes to resign in March 2017. Cereceda suggested the Town already has the perfect person to lead the search – the Interim Town Manager! He felt the procedure the Town is utilizing to select the new Bay Oaks Recreation Center director is working so well that he encourages Council to use the same format. This will allow a committee of residents to review all applications, then narrow a list of finalists to bring before Council to make the selection.
Council discussed prospective members, such as LPA or Audit Committee representatives, and other regional town or city managers. Cereceda suggested the Interim Town Manager select his own committee so the situation is not political. Mayor Dennis Boback said that “the last thing we want to do is make this more political,” with Hosafros saying she trusts the Interim Town Manager to “do an excellent job.” The Mayor asked the Interim Town Manager to return a report on this to Council at their December 19, 2016 meeting.
Finally, Council in a joint session with six LPA members examined floodplain regulations and as-built surveys, with senior Town planner Megan Will leading the discussion. Topics included if the LPA should continue work on the post-disaster reconstruction ordinance, the 50% Rule for substantial improvements and damage determinations, whether to reduce the 5-year rule on 50% substantial improvements to 1 year, and a post-disaster reconstruction ordinance.
Megan said all of Estero Island is in a floodplain, and that makes it “pretty unique nationally!” She encouraged Council and the LPA to take these actions to “minimize any potential storm damage and allow the island to receive lower flood insurance premiums.” LPA member Joanne Shamp encouraged the elimination of the 5-year Rule, saying it would be a “win-win for the entire community.” Cereceda feels these actions must “help maintain the character of Fort Myers Beach; if not the alternative is to scrap current structures and build up.”
LPA chair Hank Zuba suggested the LPA at its next meeting consider the pros-&-cons of these issues and return their recommendations to Council. Cereceda feels these items are so important that the Town cannot accurately examined them in a single one-hour session with the LPA, and encouraged both to meet again soon in a full workshop without any other agenda items. The Mayor would like to do this on a day Council does not meet, so it can devote its full attention to these matters, and asked to schedule this within the first two months of 2017.
The workshop adjourned at 12:14 p.m., prior to the Town Council meeting at 2 p.m.