Charity Benefit to Go On
The Lani Kai Island Resort for the past 11 years hosted the Cincinnati Firefighters for a Spring Break male review on a temporary 6×40-foot wooden stage, with “Pass The Boot” fundraising that benefits the Araba Shiners and their children’s charity work. The Lani Kai, however, failed in the past to obtain a Special Exception Permit from the Town of Fort Myers Beach to construct the temporary stage on its beach that is seaward of the Coastal Construction Control Line and in the Environmentally Critical (EC) Zone. To host the shows that run most afternoons March 7 through 19 this year, the Town for this first time required the Lani Kai to obtain a Special Events Permit.
Council member Joanne Shamp inquired if “there is anything in here that talks about what the stage can specifically be used for, such as just the charity event? As Town Council members know, we all received a video about the stage use that was definitely not associated with the charity event, so other things happen on that stage! Can we restrict its use to the charity event or can it be used for whatever?”
Town Attorney John Herin, Jr., replied, “This discussion took place at the Local Planning Agency (LPA) pertaining to the Special Events Permit, but all you are doing here is approving the temporary structure in that location during that timeframe, though the LPA and Town Staff feel that should be tied to the Special Event application.”
The LPA on February 24 unanimously approved the Special Exception request for the temporary stage, with conditions that the stairs have handrails on each side and the Lani Kai assemble it within five days prior to the first show on March 7 and take it down within three days after the final March 19 performance. Town Staff determined that the temporary stage is innocuous and will not negatively impact any neighboring properties, dune vegetation, or the Environmentally Critical area, so it recommended approval.
Special Event Permit
Attorney Robert Burandt, one of seven candidates vying for three Town Council seats on the March 17 ballot, represented the Lani Kai. “We ask the Town to waive the Special Exception Permit fee for the Cincinnati Firemen’s shows and feel that a Special Events Permit is not required. I did not even know we were required to do a Special Events Permit until we were at the LPA, as my interpretation is that one is only required for a future function. These shows are on private property 100 feet from the beach, not on a beach access or street, and only last one hour a day for a few weeks. A Special Events Permit requires firefighters and deputies to be there. The Lani Kai does not make money off this; in fact, it costs them money to put this on, so we ask the Town to waive the Special Exception Permit and the Special Events Permit does not apply.”
Burandt stressed that the Cincinnati Firemen shows “are not like a festival where you block off a street, like the Shrimp Festival, so we ask you to approve the Special Exception per the LPA, as we are fine with putting up the stage five days in advance with the handrails, and taking it down three days after. As for the Special Events Permit, we never needed one between the previous Town administrations and the Lani Kai owners and this seemed to work. The firemen stay at the Lani Kai, perform an hour a day for 10 or 11 shows, make money for charity, and at the end of the month they move on. We know we must apply for the Special Exception but we ask you to waive the Special Event Permit, as that will require Fort Myers Beach firemen and Lee County Sheriffs Office deputies, as we don’t even know if we can get any to come down for just an hour due to the traffic. The Lani Kai already has 40 security personnel that patrol the property 24-hours-a-day.”
Council member Rexann Hosafros stated, “Council is working to cut back on the Special Events Ordinance, but we require you to have a Special Events Permit for things like a wedding on the beach, so if those need one, so do you. I am ready to grant the Special Exception so you can get to work on the stage and we can work out the details on the Special Events Permit.”
“A wedding on the beach is one event,” countered Burandt. “If you look at this, that does not fit into that.” “These shows create a mob scene on the beach,” replied Hosafros, “so it is certainly an event that affects the beach,” with Mayor Anita Cereceda adding that, “there are thousands of people there!” Burandt explained that “the beach is 100 feet from the stage, and people walk the beach and see the event and come up to watch it. I have been there and it does not interfere with beach traffic at all.” Hosafros recommended that “I prefer to move forward so you can get your stage approved and then you can work with Staff on the Special Event Permit.”
Vice Mayor Ray Murphy commented, “The fact that you do this as a charity is admirable and you donate the funds to the Shriners who do such good work, but since you brought it up, I am compelled to ask: the Lani Kai does not make money or actually loses money of these charity events? I understand the firefighters pass the boot but does the Lani Kai donate all the money they make at its bars to charity as well?”
Burandt replied, “The Lani Kai donates rooms to the firefighters in the high part of season; it costs the hotel $22,000 to sponsor this.” Council member Bruce Butcher stated, “I agree with Ray Murphy – the Lani Kai sells a lot of alcohol during these performances and make a substantial profit off of that; I see a lot of people buying a lot of Rum Runners! Is the stage used only by the charity performers?” Burandt answered, “As far as I know, it is only used by the firemen; I can’t tell you if anyone else goes up there.”
Help Us Help Your Children
Three people spoke in support of the Lani Kai, with no one in opposition. Joe Diebold stated that he “is a founding member of the Cincinnati Firefighter group that does this charity event for 11 years at our own expense, and we raise money for your children in need in your community for a total of $18,046 last year and $122,680 over the years and this amount increases each year, so we ask you, as your community’s leaders, for your help with the Special Event Permit and not require it as you have done for the past 11 years, as your own Code says we are exempt. We perform at the Lani Kai because of the available crowd and the shows go off without incident, so as community leaders, help us help your children!”
Harrison Crosslands, a former Araba Shriners Potentate, noted, “We transport 525 kids to the burn unit in Cincinnati and to the hospital in Tampa, and the money the firefighters raise is quite a bit of that transportation budget, as we do this at no cost to their families, so please make sure they get their permits while incurring as few fees as possible.” Another Past Potentate, Kenny Harold, added, “We raise our moneys through fundraisers and that is what the Cincinnati Firefighters do for us, and we could not do all we do without them, with all that positive publicity coming to the beach and that is great, so approve this item.”
Shamp stated, “From my point of view, this is a noble cause, but the Special Exception is required and I am glad you are here to do that, but you do need the Special Event Permit as well, as you get a lot of people there and that impacts the beach, so you need both. We can waive your fees but I am compelled to make the point that you need a Special Events Permit. There are ‘Body Events’ on that stage, so not everything that goes on there is positive Public Relations for the Town. Because this is a noble cause, however, I make the motion to approve the Special Exception Permit and Special Event Permit on the conditions set by the LPA and waive the roughly $4,000 in fees.” Murphy noted, “This is in effect a donation on the part of the Town. I am happy for the Shriners and I appreciate all the work you do, as there are problems here, but you are the beneficiaries.” Council then unanimously approved and waived the fees for the Special Exception and Special Event Permits.