It was No Foolin’ on Monday, April 1st, when the Fort Myers Beach Town Council heard a presentation to return powerboat races to the community during a light agenda!
Tim & Cyndee Hill of Fort Myers Offshore, assisted by Mike Shepherd of the Offshore Powerboat Association and Jacki Liszak, Executive Director of the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, explained their proposal. “This race would be part of the Offshore Powerboat Races series,” said Mike, “where drivers earn points for every win, leading up to the championship. The American Powerboat Association, based in New Jersey, is the overall governing body in the nation, and they asked us to bring powerboat racing back to Fort Myers Beach!”
“We hope to bring an economic impact to Fort Myers Beach for the races on Saturday, October 12, during what is generally a slow time here,” explained Tim. “We are already working behind the scenes with the Chamber and Lee County Sheriff’s Office and Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District and they are all giving us a ‘thumbs up!’ Turns #1 and #2 will be by the Fort Myers Beach Pier, #3 and #4 by Junkanoos on the Beach, with the Start/Finish Line at the DiamondHead Resort & Spa. Thursday, October 10, would feature a street parade to show off the teams, with the dry pits at Salty Sam’s Marina on Friday open to the public, to ask questions of the drivers and teams. The prize money comes from sponsorships, with the rest, after expenses, going to a local charity.”
There will be several race boat categories, offered Tim, “from small boats to the really big fast ones that in straightaways can go roughly 180 miles-per-hour!” The last time powerboat races were on Fort Myers Beach, they believe, was in 2005. “We anticipate these races will be for the National Championship,” he added, “so we expect every major race team will be here.” Mayor Anita Cereceda suggested the organizers “look into Tourist Development Council funding, as this is an off-season event,” with Liszak replying they already are. “Keep us up-to-date,” said Cereceda: “We will help you out anyway we can!”
A Deal’s A Deal
Under “First Reading & Public Hearing for the Edison Beach House Comprehensive Plan Development (CPD) Amendment,” the Edison Beach House at 830 Estero Boulevard requested that Council amend its 1997 Master Concept Plan to allow parasailing through the Ranelli Parasailing license. The Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina at 275 Estero Boulevard that offers parasailing opposed the request.
Council member Rexann Hosafros did as well, stating that “I support what prior Councils did, and one made a deal with Edison Beach House for its construction.” Vice Mayor Ray Murphy, however, was on that Council, saying that “my recollection at that time was we voted ‘No’ because there was a big concern on the beach over the number of parasailing licenses, and that they were applying for another license. I know they got a good deal but the Town did too because that was a dilapidated property.” “The overriding issue for me,” countered Hosafros, “is the Town made a deal in exchange for certain promises and we must respect that.” “I agree with Rexann,” said Council member Joanne Shamp. Cereceda had safety concerns for beachgoers at nearby Lynn Hall Park, “so I cannot support this.”
Murphy made a motion to approve the CPD Amendment but it failed for lack of a Second. In Council’s other “Public Hearing,” it unanimously approved “A Variance for rear, water, and side yard setbacks for 215 Primo Drive.”
Under “Administrative Agenda: Community Resources Advisory Board (CRAB) Appointments,” Council unanimously filled the three CRAB openings with Pastor Ivan Corbin, Norbert DeMars, and Michael Lund. Under “Historic Preservation Advisory Committee (HPAC) Openings,” Council unanimously appointed Beverley Milligan to one of the two open seats; if you have an interest in the remaining vacancy, call Town Clerk Michelle Mayher at 239-765-0202.
Under “Florida Power & Light (FPL) Street Light Sidestreet Conversions,” Council unanimously approved a FPL Agreement to convert Town sidestreet fixtures to LED streetlights, at no cost to the Town, with an estimated completion of September 2019. Under “Phase 3 Joint Outfall Public Involvement Funding,” Council unanimously authorized an additional $25,000 to ensure that residents remain well-informed of the reFRESH Estero Boulevard Projects as they approach their neighborhoods, with Murphy commenting, “This is money well-spent!”
Under “Town Manager Items,” Roger Hernstadt reminded Council of the Strategic Planning Update Session on Thursday, April 11, in Council Chambers at 9 a.m., and informed them that they will soon see the Town’s “Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan for the upcoming 2019 Hurricane Season.”
Negative & Positive
Murphy asked about the substantial Red Drift Algae on Fort Myers Beach. “As you know,” replied Hernstadt, “we try not to remove that as we manage Fort Myers Beach as a natural beach, allowing the tide to take it. We are examining a Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) permit so when we must remove it, we can, as unfortunately our last permit expired. We are working in conjunction with Sanibel to see if the FDEP will grant us a seasonal permit to remove it as situations dictate. We monitor it daily with Environmental Technician Rae Burns and Beach And Street Enforcement (BASE) personnel to minimize its impacts, as it can be unsightly and smell, but it is not dangerous to your health.”
“It may not be harmful,” countered Cereceda, “but it certainly has negative effects to beach businesses and homeowners.” Shamp stated it can be a positive, “as it prevents erosion. Can we gather it up and transport it to the Newton Beach Park area and bury it, to help to create dunes there?” “My neighbors complain to me about the smell,” added Council member Bruce Butcher: “It smells like an open sewer – it really does!”
“We hope the wave action takes it out,” said Burns, “as raking only mixes it into the sand about two inches deep, and the FDEP frowns upon us moving sand off island for incineration. We are sending the FDEP photographs of the current situation to get a raking permit if necessary. It will not hurt anyone but it does smell really bad! We are working with Sanibel to coordinate a plan.” “We certainly need a raking permit,” emphasized Cereceda, with Hernstadt adding that “Sanibel is taking the lead to find a vendor that can solve the problem; if they do, we can partner with them.”
Under “Town Attorney Items,” John Herin, Jr., stated that “the Administrative Law Judge ruled against the Audubon Society and Town in our lawsuit versus Texas Hold ‘Em to prevent the construction of a boardwalk in the Little Estero Island Critical Wildlife Area (CWA) and ordered the FDEP to issue the project permit. It was surprising that the Administrative Law Judge ruled the Town did not have standing in this litigation, as the issue is outside the permitting process, but the applicant must still come before Council for a Special Exemption to see if it meets the criteria for approval or not.”
Sidewalk & Scooters
Under “Council Members Items,” Hosafros would like to reexamine extending the Connecticut Street sidewalk nixed by a previous Council, “as it is dangerous to walk down to the Mound House in the street from our designated Connecticut Street parking lot. The Town Manager tells me we still have time to look into using grant money for this.” The other four Council members agreed to put it on an upcoming Management & Planning Session.
Hosafros would like the Town to support the Village of Estero’s position to the Lee County Board of Commissioners against continued limestone mining over environmental issues, with Council providing its unanimous approval to send letters to Lee County and the Village of Estero. When the matter comes before the Lee County Commissioners, Cereceda encouraged all Council members to attend the session and voice their disapproval of the limestone mining practice, stating that “this is a huge issue! It is important that the Lee County Commissioners think about their legacy over this important decision.”
Butcher stated, “The Florida Senate and House are examining regulations on micro-mobility devices like electric scooters that would prevent cities and towns from having any control over these things, where you could ride them on the sidewalk and just leave them anywhere when you are done with your rental. Sanibel is very concerned about this and we should be too!” “The Florida Legislature needs constant reminding that Home Rule is part of the Florida Constitution,” exclaimed Hosafros, with Murphy adding, “This is really a local issue that municipalities should decide; this should not be the decision of the State!”
Council adjourned at 11:03 a.m.; its Strategic Plan Update Session is Thursday, April 11, and its next Council meeting is Monday, April 15, both in Town Hall at 9 a.m.