During Monday’s Town Council meeting, they denied our Special Exception application to build a minor structure in the Environmentally Critical zone. Minor structures are allowed and found in the EC zone throughout Fort Myers Beach. The comp plan encourages dune walkovers and town ordinances set requirements.
The hiccup with our project – it’s adjacent to the Critical Wildlife Area (CWA). While the public and homeowners commonly walk around and through the CWA, the proposed dune walkover would create a new specific path, adjacent to the CWA, for nine houses without beach access now. We spent over an hour detailing how our project specifically meets each and every special exception requirement and highlighted the incorrect information provided by town staff in their recommendation to deny.
The final vote was 3-2 to deny the application. Council members Butcher and Murphy would have approved, but Mayor Cereceda and Council members Shamp and Hosafros voted to deny. We are disappointed by their purported reasons. We would expect the denial to be based on the elements required for the special exception. Instead, the conversations centered around emotions and opinions.
Shamp tearfully stated that she agrees with the attending environmental organization’s opinions. In contrast, Cereceda, voted to deny based on the currently proposed limitation that only the homes along the beachfront would be able to use this structure. The Town was initially hostile to the notion of others using the proposed structure and never requested public use. Council Member Hosafros stated that her “inner gut” informed her decision to deny.
I have no clue which elements of the comp plan or ordinance were not met. Our project was approved 7-0 by the LPA. We believe council denied it based on public opinion, not public interest, which our project supported. Our project should not have been denied based on an “inner gut” feeling. The homes implicated by this decision have been substantially devalued by this action and the public will be worse off as a result of this politicized decision.
Kurt Kroemer, Squeeze Me Inn