Grand Resorts Speaks to Chamber Members

398

Grand Resorts representatives met with invited Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce members Tuesday afternoon at the Beach Library. Chamber members in or near the redevelopment area were invited to a casual conversation with Grand Resorts leader Tom Torgerson and members of his development team.

Much of the information shared has been presented during previous public meetings or is available on the website www.grandresortsfmb.com. The conversation started with an overview of public benefits. For more details, see the Island Sand Paper, Jan 15 issue available at Fort Myers Beach Library and free online at fortmyersbeach.news

Torgerson made several distinct comments early in the presentation as he addressed over 40 representatives from businesses based from Key Estero Plaza to Pink Shell. “It’s important that all the businesses understand how important we think the neighboring business community is for this project,” Torgerson said. “Times Square and Old San Carlos will be distinct destinations for Grand Resorts guests. Without the existing neighboring business amenities, our resorts will not be as attractive to our guests.“ He added, “a typical day for our guests involves going to the beach during the day, meeting in the lobby later to select evening destinations, going out for the evening and returning for a nightcap on property before heading up to their rooms.” Torgerson emphasized that their experience has shown guests do not stay on property when amenities are within a short distance to walk or ride.

The traffic and parking portions of the development were also described as not contributing to the existing Island traffic and parking problems, but would provide some relief. The rerouting of Estero Blvd and the parking facility are designed to extract vehicles from the roads quickly upon arrival from the North and the Matanzas Bridge. Engineering studies have indicated this will alleviate some vehicle traffic down island, now resulting from visitors seeking parking options. Torgerson indicated their estimates indicate needing about 600 parking spaces for guests and employees, providing about 500 additional public parking spaces in the most congested area of the island. He also confirmed that shuttles will run from parking areas in the Summerlin Road area to the resorts to alleviate some parking ramp usage by Grand Resorts employees. Attendees inquired about the cost and time limits expected in the parking facility, and Torgerson indicated they would be modeled after those currently in place at Lynn Hall Park.

When addressing the logistics and timing of the construction process proposed, Torgerson indicated the project will not pop up overnight, and will take 5 years to complete. One resort will be built at a time, so as to not overwhelm the neighborhood with construction on all 10.4 acres of the development and permit Estero Blvd to remain open during the entire construction phase.

Numerous questions from the audience focused on the Coastal Protection System (CPS) of dunes, vegetation and a “rigid armored structure,” normally mislabeled as a sea wall.

The purpose of the CPS is to permit reclassification of the properties behind the system to a lower velocity zone by FEMA, Torgerson explained. This will permit property owners landward from the CPS to remodel/rebuild without the restrictions of the FEMA 50% rule, meaning without elevated construction. This opens the door for those property owners along the gulf side of Estero Blvd to remodel, rebuild or improve their properties to a much greater extent than currently feasible. The Pierview Hotel on Estero Blvd has solicited flood insurance quotes, assuming the creation of the CPS, and found future premiums to be about 20% of their current rates. Questions about washout or scouring around the CPS in the event of large storm event were also addressed. The CPS is designed to only slow the velocity of incoming waves, and does not cause radical redirection of water flows. The 11 planned beach access points also will serve as points where a surge can retreat back to the Gulf, preventing pooling behind the CPS.

The final area covered in the afternoon meeting addressed zoning and density associated with the project. Grand Resorts representatives explained that the existing Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code allows for more density than there is in the proposed development. The existing codes permit this density because the development is classified as resort/commercial and not residential. Also this density is only permitted on the Island in the downtown area. Approving a development plan for this specific downtown location will not result in granting future similar sized development applications elsewhere. Grand Resorts representatives indicated the development plan is deemed permissible and unique only to the area where it is proposed.

The next public meeting on the project will be 5:30-7:30pm on February 22 at Bay Oaks Recreation Center. Topics planned for that meeting will include advanced architectural renderings, traffic, parking and zoning.

Staff Report