The Fort Myers Beach Local Planning Agency (LPA) approved a Special Exception to the Commercial Planned Development for the Liki Tiki bar and restaurant that would allow outdoor music under the tiki hut installed last year. The board also unanimously approved a Capital Improvement Plan that would add sidewalks on both sides of the street from Crescent to Old San Carlos Blvd.
Kalyani Bhutada, new with the Town’s Planning Services, introduced the Liki Tiki’s request to allow live outdoor entertainment from 5 – 9pm daily. The property owner Goran Stojkoski told the LPA he approached the town about an “entertainment license” when he purchased the property during the summer of 2018 and was told the town did not require one. “As soon as it was brought to my attention, we applied immediately,” he explained, referring to the special exception to allow outdoor music.
The location of the Liki Tiki at 1821 Estero Blvd, has hosted a number of restaurants over the years, the Terra Nostra, most long-lived among them. In 1984, Lee County granted a consumption on premise (COP) but not for outdoor COP. In 1996, outdoor seating was granted for up to 60 seats out of a total of 159 seats and restricted hours to 11am – 10pm. Outdoor entertainment was prohibited. Stojkoski applied for a modification of the 1996 special exception to provide entertainment, music and/or outdoor speakers until 9pm, using speakers at or under 250 watts.
Bhutada said the town became aware of the Liki Tiki music in December 2018. LPA Chair Megan Heil asked why this hearing was being held in May, six months after a problem was first observed and after season in which outdoor music continued at the site. The Special Exception request was filed February 28, 2019. Town staff explained that a violation was filed and at a magistrate hearing last month, the owner was told that outdoor music was prohibited. At that time, musicians began performing indoors at the restaurant. The staff recommendation was for denial of the Special Exception for outdoor music.
During Public Comment seven people including neighbors and employees of the Liki Tiki testified that the music was not intrusive to the adjoining neighborhood, while one person objected to the granting of outdoor music in person and another two via letter.
“The Liki Tiki has brought a great ambiance to our neighborhood, “said Susan Stroud, who lives on Miramar Street. “I have no concerns in my part of the neighborhood. It’s been a wonderful addition to have this wonderful venue on Estero, right up the street.”
“I’ve made several complaints,” said Becky Kratt, also of Miramar Street. “They said they’d turn the music down and 20 minutes later, it’s still loud…When they moved the music inside, it seemed just fine. There’s been this general creep into the neighborhood.”
During the LPA discussion, the six members present (Lorrie Wolf was absent) debated the need for a watt limitation on speakers when the town has a noise ordinance tied to decibels. Several commented that speaker wattage is not necessarily tied to volume.
They also debated the need to specify that the musicians be 12 feet from the Estero property line, eventually agreeing that an easier parameter to set was three feet inside the tiki roofline.
Once again, the LPA opted to eliminate a condition added by staff to all exceptions and variances related to violations incurring a $500 per day fine, opting instead to utilize the fine structure set out in the Land Development Code. Community Development head Jason Green explained that the large violation fee is tied to the fact that the applicant is asking for something specific and special from the town, which takes a lot of staff time and the larger fee helps to keep people in compliance with the conditions they agree to.
The LPA voted 6-0 to approve the Special Exception, allowing outdoor music, provided the speakers are aimed toward the indoor portion of the restaurant, and set up 3 feet inside the tiki roofline. Music would be allowed from 5-9pm, with outdoor seating allowed until 10pm. The Special Exception request now moves to Town Council where it is tentatively scheduled for a June 3 hearing.
The LPA reviewed and approved a 5-Year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for the Town which will be used during budget preparation. This year’s CIP was broken down into categories based on the funding source for various projects.
Impact fees of just over $1 million, will be used for Bay Oaks expansion and sidewalks downtown. By Fiscal Year 2021, $125,000 is earmarked for Bay Oaks expansion. In that same time frame sidewalks will be designed and built along Crescent Street, as well as First, Second, Third and Fifth Streets between Crescent and Old San Carlos Blvd.
Gas taxes of $127,000, will be used to convert Estero Blvd lighting to LED bulbs, replace light poles from Times Square to the Lani Kai and supplement lighting along Estero Blvd from Times Square to the Big Carlos Pass Bridge.
Bay Oaks ball field lights are on the list for field LED light upgrades with a budget of $255,000 out of the general revenue fund by FY 2022.
The Town is expecting grants of $390,000 to pay for a traffic signal at Old San Carlos Blvd and Estero Blvd by FY 2021.
Swale reclamation is budgeted at $150,000 per year. Green explained that swale reclamation is an ongoing maintenance project, separate from the larger Stormwater Utility Project the town is currently undertaking. The reclamation project will clear out and restore swales on side streets, many of which have been filled in either through lack of maintenance or active landscaping. All swales that are part of this reclamation project are on public land. A pilot swale reclamation program is planned but neither Green nor LPA Attorney John Hiler, Jr. could recall which streets were part of that program.
With the exception of swale reclamation, no CIP projects were listed beyond FY 2021-2022. When Heil asked if the LPA would see 5 years of numbers when the CIP came back to them this fall, Green said the town does not have 5 years of projects identified.
Meeting as the Historic Preservation Board, two properties were approved for historic recognition: 214/216 Pearl Street and 261 Fairweather Lane. The Pearl Street property was built in 1946, while the Fairweather property was moved to its current location and is believed to have been built in the 1930’s, but without proof, its plaque will say 1950 as that is what is stated in tax records.
During Member Items, Jane Plummer asked about the special magistrate hearings and the fines that are generated. ‘I’d like to know how much money the Town has collected in violation fees the last two years. I have to think it’s quite monumental.” Green said that he preferred that Plummer file a public records request for that information.
At the end of the meeting, Green introduced Kalyani Bhutada, who said that she has a Masters in Urban Planning from the University of Florida, had worked with Lee County for 3 months before going to work for Weiler Engineering and working with the Town. Weiler Engineering also employs Jason Green. “We now have a well-rounded and competent staff,” Green said. “We’ve reduced permitting time substantially.”
The next LPA meeting will be held on June 4 at 9am. Green indicated that the meeting may include hearings on Publix adding a liquor store and an amendment to the Topps property CPD. The Town is currently awaiting paperwork from both projects.