Guest Commentary: Protect Public Right of Way

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As a resident who prefers to get around our island by bike, I was delighted with the planned bike paths and sidewalks on both sides of Estero Boulevard in front of the Red Coconut. I consider that area one of the most dangerous for cyclists on the island, particularly riding south.

I was disappointed when I read that the owners of the Red Coconut are refusing to vacate the County’s right-of-way so that these important safety improvements can be made. According to the September 8, 2016 article in the News-Press, the Red Coconut has encroached on the taxpayers’ land by 15 feet on the beach side. I am also told the encroachment is not just on Estero Blvd. The Red Coconut has also been using the Town’s land along Donora Blvd.

And, from the artist’s rendition of the Estero Blvd. streetscape in front of the Gulf View Shops (see www.leegov.com), it appears the owners of the Red Coconut will be able to continue to use the County right-of-way on both sides of the street. If you look at the Estero Blvd. survey, it shows the right-of-way changing from 50 feet to 65 feet just before the Gulf View Shops. But, the streetscape rendition doesn’t expand to use the additional 15 feet of right-of way until after the Gulf View Shops. I am speculating that this concession was made to save the parking spaces in front of the building. If the streetscape had been expanded to use all of the county right-of-way it would have reduced, if not eliminated, parking in front of the shops. (It is my understanding that the building housing the Gulf View Shops is owned by the same folks who own the Red Coconut).

From reading the News-Press article, it appears the Red Coconut owners knowingly installed utility lines on public property. They knowingly built on taxpayer land. And, they have made a profit as a result. It is time for the Red Coconut to remove its property from the people’s land and to support the speedy implementation of the streetscape plan.

Our Comprehensive Plan envisions bicycle and pedestrian paths along Estero Blvd. The majority of people who ride bikes and walk on Estero Blvd. are Town residents or our guests. Implementing our Comprehensive Plan and reducing the risk of harm to our residents and guests is an important Town issue. Elected officials are expected to lead and represent the voices of their constituency. I expect no less of our Town Council members. I ask that our Town Council pass a Resolution in support of using the County right-of-way in front of the Red Coconut as planned and that this position be made clear to Lee County officials.

 

Suzanne Katt
Fort Myers Beach