Education Center Hits Certification Snag

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    Matanzas Pass Preserve

    Last summer, the Sand Paper reported that the Friends of Matanzas Pass Preserve (FMPP) had collected enough funds to fulfill their dream of opening an educational building on the site known as the ‘Best Kept Secret on FMB’. One year later, the project is being held up by what seems to be a simple certification.

    “We are at an impasse, and it’s Lee County that’s holding us up,” said Project Manager Dan Andre. “They are asking for a certification from the Department of Community Affairs – a department that was abolished by Governor Rick Scott three years ago.”

    Education Center Hits Certification Snag, Matanzas PreserveThe FMPP – a non-profit volunteer organization of Lee County Parks and Recreation dedicated to the preservation, protection and enhancement of Matanzas Pass Preserve – have been fundraising for what Chief Financial Officer Jim Rodwell calls an “environmental education resource station” for the past 7 years through annual events like the Mango Street Inn’s popular Wine Dinner and Casino Nights. Last year, they were finally able to reach their goal of $70,000 so they could begin the permitting process for the structure – which is actually planned to be an elevated mobile home with a deck.
    “We plan to put it parallel to this fence along the backside of Beach Elementary property,” Jim Rodwell told us last year. “The building will actually be an 11′ by 36′ mobile home that’s raised about 5′ in the air, as the ground here is already 5′ above sea level so that will put it 10′ up. Coming off of that, there will be pillars to hold up the beams and a deck that comes out 10 feet to the steps.”

    Plans for the new building include both children’s and adult programs and a possible resource center for Florida Gulf Coast University studies on sea level rise and Florida Master Naturalist classes.

    Matanzas Pass Preserve“You can do a lot of things with a building,” Rodwell said. “For instance, the Friends would like to see expansion of the Home Sweet Home program to include fourth graders from area schools and a lecture series for adults. We could host a lecture series in our new classroom once a week, during season, on topics like panthers, shells or any environmental issues relevant to our area.”

    The ground on which the proposed building and the required extra parking spots will sit is owned by Lee County, and, since part of it is on land used by Beach Elementary, the Lee County School District must also be involved in the process.

    “As far as I know, the School Board has agreed to the structure,” said Matt Noble, Principal Planner for the Town of Fort Myers Beach. “Now it’s all about the certification. This is a commercial trailer, not a residential one, and it has to have the correct certification from the manufacturer before they can apply for any permitting from the Town.”

    Randy Simes, Plan Reviewer for Lee County, said that the FMPP and the manufacturer – Pinnacle Park Homes – need simply to show him the right documents.

    “If it’s an approved building, submit the document and we can move forward,” he said.

    Since Pinnacle Park Homes is closed for vacation until July 18th it’s unlikely this will get resolved in the next couple of days, though Noble says he is optimistic that it will be soon.

    “I’ll probably just have to get everyone in the same room together so we’re on the same page,” he said.

    Once this issue is resolved, the Friends will need to enter into an Interlocal Agreement (ILA) with the county and submit their zoning for approval by the Town.

    Keri Hendry Weeg