HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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The beginning of a new year is always such an optimistic time. A whole year ahead – a blank slate – a fresh start – kind of a ‘first day of school’ for grown-ups. An ‘anything is possible’ kind of season.

So why do our resolutions always sound so negative? Lose weight, drink less coffee, watch less TV. Sure we’re all trying to be better people, but resolutions seem doomed to fail, and maybe it’s because we’re busy trying NOT to do things. Maybe we’d all be happier if rather than thinking about what we’re not going to do, we choose to DO something instead. Do enough of the good stuff and there’s less time and room in our lives for the bad stuff we’d like to eliminate. Eat enough fruit and veggies and you won’t be hungry for that donut. Read a book and you’ll have less time for TV. We could all take a look at our resolutions, – chances are they’re the same as last year’s – and turn them around into positive changes.

Our community itself could benefit from a few positive resolutions or let’s call them wishes since resolutions have such a dismal track record. With that in mind, here are a few of our Island wishes for 2015:

– A safe year for residents and visitors – those on foot, on two wheels and behind the wheel. No traffic fatalities, no pedestrian casualties.

– Thoughtful and civil conversation on community issues. We need to listen to and work with each other on community projects now and down the road. We all benefit from good communication.

– Engagement in local government on a regular basis. All Town Council, advisory board, Fire, Library and Mosquito Control meetings are open to the public. Drop in on them and see what they’re doing.

– More public restrooms for visitors and islanders who enjoy our beach. The more comfortable our visitors are, the better it is for all of us.

-Continued progress on our water utility, storm water and Estero Blvd projects. While nobody is happy when our main street is torn up, it’s a sign of progress on some sorely needed infrastructure. In many ways, this first stretch from the bridge to Lover’s Lane is the most difficult stretch both for crews and Islanders. Once the project shifts just a little south into a wider right of way, we expect an easier time of it.

– Short and long-term solutions to our Lake Okeechobee water release problems, both the over-abundance of polluted water in the rainy season as the Army Corps keeps the lake level low to protect the dike; and the under-supply during the dry season, when low water flow increases salinity in the Caloosahatchee River threatening wildlife.

– Continued support for the many benefits and fundraisers that help our neighbors in need throughout the year.

– Growth of our Island service clubs. The Beach’s Lions, Kiwanis, Community Foundation and other clubs support many worthy Island causes. They do this through the hard work of their members, who also seem to have a pretty good time. The more members they have, the more community work they can do. Consider joining one of these groups and supporting our community through their good works.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY FORT MYERS BEACH!

Happy 20th birthday! While our community has been around for much longer, the Town of Fort Myers Beach celebrated its 20th birthday on December 31st.

No longer a teenager, our Town still endures a few growing pains, particularly as redevelopment is no longer on the horizon but has arrived in both our residential and business sectors. While our population has not grown dramatically, the Town has matured and we are a different Town than we were 20 years ago. To some degree, our residents are different people with a different vision than they were when the clock struck midnight in 1995. Which, of course, is why the Town hosts a periodic check-up on how residents view their Town and what they hope for the future.

The Local Planning Agency has been working on a review of the Comprehensive Plan for months and will wrap up that review, called an Evaluation and Appraisal Report, this year, sending it to Town Council for their approval. As they go through the Comp Plan line by line, it’s pretty clear there’s plenty there that’s obsolete, like the fact it lists Bay Oaks as a Lee County owned facility or that it calculates our peak season population at a paltry 15,000. If we hope to successfully guide the redevelopment of our community, we need a vision for our Town, but it needs to be current, not 20 years old.

Town Charter amendments will be on the ballot in March. The LPA and then Council are taking a close look at the Comprehensive Plan to make sure it reflects what current residents of Fort Myers Beach want for their community. The process often seems mired in molasses, but it is moving. A good sign.

So, Happy Birthday Fort Myers Beach! May this third decade of life find you stronger and more vital than ever!

Missy Layfield