Guest Commentary: Development Concerns

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As a local business owner and developer myself I would like to begin by stating that I am not against new development within the Town of Fort Myers Beach. Development is healthy and we should encourage it, within the vision that most people have. Successful developments are ones that mutually benefit the town, the community and the residents. Such was the case in 1998 when our company started the redevelopment of the Pink Shell Resort & Marina. This project was a success because we worked within the Towns’ master plan requirements, and with the support and guidance of the Town officials, various government agencies, and the residents of FMB.

Seventeen years ago, the leaders of Fort Myers Beach put in place a Comprehensive Plan to guide future development within our town. Of paramount importance at the time, was the desire to insure that the character of this “Old Florida” beach town would endure. Take a drive though most any other coastal Florida town today and you will see what FMB could be, if not for this Comprehensive Plan. Personally, I love the character, the feel and the people of this “Old Florida” beach town that we call home. Thank you to our elected officials of yesteryear and the dedicated citizens of the Town that created this foundation for our community.

Recently, the local group, of which we are members, called “Voice of FMB”, released a report detailing the density requirement for the new proposed development, Grand Resorts. Based upon available information, this report raises serious concerns with regards to this development, on multiple fronts. One example being that the development is proposing over 500 hotel rooms. The Town’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code would only permit about half of those hotel rooms. The developer can try to use zoning gymnastics to rationalize his 500 rooms, but we now know that is nothing more than false logic.

We are also greatly concerned over the proposed selling of Crescent Beach Park. Do the citizens really want a hotel that exceeds the Town’s height limit in place of a beautiful white sand beach that serves the public? The quality of life on the island is directly related to traffic and its impact on our community. This development with 500 hotel rooms, 30,000 square feet of convention space, 9 restaurants, and an 1100 car space garage will potentially create traffic jams like we have never seen. Imagine if all of them were at capacity at the same time regular beach traffic was trying to move.

Presented below is the press release from Voice of FMB. I encourage all concerned citizens to read not only this release, but also the detailed report that can be found on the website, VOICEofFMB.com. Everyone benefits when we are fully informed of the issues.

Thursday, March 3, 2016 – Fort Myers Beach, FL – The Voice of Fort Myers Beach (VFMB), a coalition of citizens and stakeholders on the island that formed to bring clarity to the very important issues that development creates on the island, announces the release of its report detailing the specific obligations of the Town of Fort Myers Beach’s current Comprehensive Plan. The report clearly states the maximum number of units or rooms permitted by the existing Town Comp Plan on the parcels owned by Grand Resorts FMB is less than half of what Grand Resorts FMB is proposing in its development plan.

 VFMB believes in responsible development that is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan that has guided development for the past 17 years. In order for VFMB and all interested citizens to understand what the Comp Plan allows VFMB has enlisted Beverly Grady of Roetzel & Andress, to review the code and to clarify what is allowed under the Comp Plan as it is currently written.

 The Town’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Development code is very specific as to how hotel densities are to be calculated and Florida requires strict compliance with its provisions. The policies and goals are not suggestions. They are mandatory requirements. Stating there is a suggestion of using FAR (Floor Area Ratio) to increase density is contrary to the clear requirement for density calculation (see attached schedule for historic application of the Comprehensive Plan). The inclusion of the county’s densities and properties in the Grand Resorts proposed plan is unclear as to what process or authorization has taken place.

 VFMB recognizes that the Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code must be strictly followed unless changed by the Local Planning Agency and the Town Council and there are very clear steps that must be taken to do so. VFMB welcomes development that is consistent with the Comp Plan, but also that respects the problems that currently exist in the Town.

 Traffic is paramount and it is a problem that screams for relief. Any new development must alleviate, not exacerbate, traffic flow.

 Selling a public park for private development is a threshold issue that requires public debate and input prior to any authorization to file application for intense development.

 Density and intensity must also be consistent with the code and the Comp Plan, and the character of the Town of Fort Myers Beach does not have the luxury of abundant infrastructure nor vast stretches of undeveloped land. Intensity that exceeds the current Comp Plan would be very hard to accept.

 There are many issues at hand but VFMB hopes this report will help focus the debate and help all parties reach a plan that is in the best interest of all stakeholders on Fort Myers Beach. More information, the official report and additional support documents may be found online at VOICEofFMB.com.

Robert W. Boykin

CEO & Chairman

Boykin Management Co.