Council Planning Session

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Murals, Vendors, Permits & More

The Town of Fort Myers Beach Council held its monthly Management & Planning Session on Thursday morning, September 5, discussing a board range of topics. Council member Bruce Butcher was on an excused absence.

While no representatives of the reFRESH Estero Boulevard Projects were in attendance to provide an update, Council discussed Publix Supermarket entry concerns, an updated construction timeline and Estero Boulevard landscaping.

In discussion of the Matanzas Pass Bridge Maintenance & FDOT Agreement, Town Manager Roger Hernstadt stated that the Town’s agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation expires in July 2020, explaining, “FDOT pays us $9,100-a-year to use our street sweeper to clean the bridge roughly once a week, and our employees pick up trash by hand in-between those times. That fee does not cover our costs.”

Mayor Anita Cereceda said, “Either FDOT pays us what it costs or they can do it themselves.” The Town Manager, however, opined, “My experience is that FDOT maintenance for something like this is minimal, but it is the entryway to our Town, so it is important to us to keep it attractive.” Council member Rexann Hosafros added, “If we leave it to someone else and are dissatisfied, we have to take what we get. We should take what FDOT gives us and keep it clean!” “Let’s ask FDOT to increase the fee and see if they budge,” said Cereceda.

Pelican Smoking A Cigar

During the discussion on Signs & Murals, Shamp offered significant suggestions: “Murals should not include lettering or logos. The Town is working on branding so they should keep with that consistent theme, and must be well-maintained. The Town should want an approval process, so let’s send this to the Local Planning Agency. Murals should not be on residential buildings; graffiti must be removed within 24 hours and we must build in a fine to keep people accountable.”

Vice Mayor Ray Murphy suggested the Town consult with the Florida League of Cities to gather information for the Town’s Ordinance. Cereceda added that “I am a huge fan of murals, as they can define a place in a different way, with a new impression. They become almost tourist attractions where people take photographs. We need a review process so we do not end up with just some random paintings or advertising, like a portrait of a pelican smoking a cigar! This could be important to our branding, to make Fort Myers Beach look funky!

In a discussion on beach vendors, including parasailing and personal watercraft locations for 2020, the Town Manager stated, “We met with the vendors, as they came forward with several suggestions about changes to the Ordinance, so should we embark on a significant review, to address vendor concerns and staff’s, including raising the $100 permit fee?”

Murphy said, “I am ready again to review their concerns and agree the $100 is pretty nominal.” Hosafros, however, said, “I hesitate to reopen this can of worms when we have not received a lot of complaints.” “I agree with Rexann,” added Shamp. “It is working so let’s not touch it, other than what is essential to the Town.” Murphy then stated, “I have been swung around by this debate!” The Town Manager concluded with, “If we are leaving everything else static, leave the fee alone.”

Special Events Net Too Wide

Under the Special Events agenda item, Hosafros offered, “I did some research and surprisingly there are not many basic definitions of special events, so unfortunately there is nothing good to copy. What we passed is too wide a net, and I actually voted for it, but small non-profit groups who are not causing anyone any trouble should not have to fill out an application and pay the fee.” Shamp countered, “This is a little scary to me; it is important we recognize some properties just don’t have what is necessary for a special event. Some people just rent homes to have parties and we get complaints – do renters have the same rights as residents?” Murphy stated, “Things change over time, so we should look at it again.”

During a discussion of Land Development Code amendments for Environmentally Critical (EC) District restrictions, Council discussed limits to the height of dune walkovers, allowing repairs to existing structures that cross the EC District, and appropriate easements for beach renourishment. “Either we protect the EC or we don’t,” stressed Shamp. “Emergency repairs are fine, but other things – No! This is not a big problem, but a unique problem.” “We want to preserve the character of our town,” Cereceda agreed. Shamp added, “I want a very narrow definition. I do not see why any building would be in the EC Zone; we should not cross that line.” Murphy stated, “I share your passion, Joanne, not to violate that line.”

Under “Proposed Update to the Town’s Code Enforcement Regulations,” the Town Manager explained, “Code Enforcement regulations have not been modified over the years.” Town Attorney John Herin, Jr., explained, “The review is still in progress, as some things in the draft are issues of concern.” Murphy added, “This is about the habitual offender, not the average citizen, so I am in all favor of tightening this up.”

Under “Departmental Reports,” Hosafros led a detailed examination, causing Council to debate the merits of the Town using interim and contract versus fulltime employees, as well as an apparent perception of hiring people formerly with Marco Island; Hernstadt was Marco Island Town Manager from January 2014 to February 2017.

Cereceda announced that new District 3 Lee County Commissioner Raymond Sandelli will be at Town Hall to learn more about Fort Myers Beach on Friday, September 13, from 9 until roughly 11 a.m. Although all the details are not finalized, Cereceda stated that the first part of his visit would be a small welcoming reception open to the public. Council adjourned at 11:01 a.m.

Topics discussed at M & P meetings may appear on future council agendas for official action.

 

By Gary Mooney
gary@fortmyersbeach.news