Setbacks & Parking Spots
The Town of Fort Myers Beach Council Workshop discussed Accessory Structure Setbacks and Surplus Parking Tuesday afternoon, February 21. The workshop debuted The Peterson Law Group as the Town’s new attorneys, with Jack Peterson and John Turner in attendance, and outgoing counsel Dawn Lehnert in the audience.
Council first heard from Mark Generales, a private citizen advocating the proposed Lovers Key State Park Visitors Information Center. He reported the State allocated $450,000 to proceed with the design, to tell the ecological story of Southwest Florida. Lovers Key in 2015 welcomed 1,026,456 people, making it the 2nd most visited state park, with revenue exceeding $1 million and $88,931,157 in economic development, “without a single indoor facility.” The estimated cost is $3.55 million, with Mark reporting that “we hope to be under construction this time next year. We ask the Town to please include Lovers Key on your priority legislative agenda, as it makes a huge difference to the State Legislature when they see surrounding communities supporting a project.”
Under “Accessory Structure Setbacks and Overall Development Regulations,” the Land Development Code (LDC) provides minimum regulations for accessory uses, buildings, and structures that are “customarily incidental and subordinate to the principle use or building. Upon further evaluation, staff does not believe the code needs modification.”
Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros said “I am so disappointed we have such little input after three years! I would like to see what other communities do with setbacks; also I get the impression from staff that their only concern is protecting the view corridor and that is just one aspect I mentioned. The problem with a 7-1/2 foot setback is it does not allow contractors room to work so they regularly trespass onto their neighbor’s property. We need to look at how people bring in equipment, with no thought to staging or storage. These are just a few of my concerns.”
Council member Anita Cereceda said, “The greatest challenge to our community is its changing character away from our Gulf charm! To guard a little bit of our character we have to do something. This should be a Local Planning Agency (LPA) discussion first, and have them come back to Council with a recommendation.” Mayor Dennis Boback is “fine with setbacks. It is the homeowner’s property and we should have a minimal amount of regulations. I am not in favor of any changes; just leave it as it is,” with Council member Tracey Gore concurred, “Keep setbacks the way they are.”
Cereceda replied that “I am really quite astonished at this conversation,” with the Vice Mayor asking for possible suggestions. Council member Joanne Shamp offered that “I live in a 1948 structure and I love the character. We should change the 50% Rule for modifications from five to one year to hopefully preserve these older structures, but the owners have the right when they buy a piece of property to do with it as they chose. The Town even landscapes the dunes at our beach accesses, and the LPA is already addressing the 50% Rule.”
Town Council next debated the proposed Surplus Parking amendment to provide adequate regulations in the LDC to allow businesses to rent “excess” parking spaces during peak periods. Matt Noble, Principal Planner in Community Development, reported the LPA discussed this at its last two meetings and recommended Council adopt its work session items with two simple delineations; the Vice Mayor moved to forward it to an upcoming Council meeting for its first of two required public hearings.
Shamp said she “finds this an interesting conversation, frankly! Aren’t we trying to get cars to park and off the road, and if we do that, I am not sure how this helps, so I am conflicted as if it is the right thing to do on a grand scale.” Cereceda added, “I agree with Joanne.”
“I have an issue with telling people how to use their property – again,” said Mayor Boback with emphasis! “They should be able to use those spaces however they want. Now if they close the business just to charge for parking, that is a whole different story and you cannot have it both ways.” Gore added, “It seems to me we can just pluck that Code out and not worry about it; this will be a code enforcement nightmare.” Shamp said she was “not fully on board but I want to hear from businesses.” Mayor Boback is “far from being sold but would like to carry on the conversation as well, so let’s move it to the 1st hearing and get into it a little more.”
The final topic was a new Parks-&-Recreation Department-wide Inclement Weather Policy, with P&R Director Sean De Palma presenting criteria to safely close outdoor areas under threatening weather.