In the first Local Planning Agency meeting since early August, the board heard and approved a request for an amendment for the Olde Seaport project on Old San Carlos Blvd as well as a shared parking lot on Mango Street near what may soon be known as the breakfast triangle, holding Heavenly Biscuit, Mom’s and the relocated Tuckaway Bagel Shop.
During Tuesday’s meeting Hank Zuba was re-elected Chair of the LPA and Dan Hendrickson was selected Vice-Chair. New member Dan Hughes was not present.
The Olde Seaport project has been around for awhile and already had an approved Master Concept Plan. That plan included a line of shops along Old San Carlos Blvd that developers later learned would need to be elevated. It also included a section of dock, later disputed by a neighboring property owner.
Robert Fowler, representing property owner Jim Figuerado, explained that the disputed property issue had been settled and the line of shops along Old San Carlos would become a restaurant, an already scheduled use of the property.
While Town Principal Planner Matt Noble introduced the issue as a complex one, Fowler disputed that description, saying it was actually quite simple. Fowler summarized the amendment requests as being about two issues: 1) a submerged land dispute that has now been settled, but which required shifting some outdoor seating 32 feet, and 2) the planned open air shops, approved in 2015, included scheduled uses of a restaurant with consumption on premise (COP). Due to flood plain rules, the shops are not practical so the property owner would like to use that strip of land (24 feet wide by 156 feet long) as a restaurant.
Fowler expressed frustration that they had to bring the already approved scheduled use back to another hearing. “I work in 17 different jurisdictions and I’ve yet to find one that doesn’t allow scheduled use,” declared Fowler.
The request would not increase intensity and, Fowler noted, a traffic study had concluded that a restaurant would require fewer parking spots than several small shops.
Following discussion the LPA approved the Planned Development Amendment request 6-0 and sent it on to Town Council. Noble estimated that it might be a month or more before it is on the Council agenda.
The lot just north of the building that houses Keller Williams Realty and Mom’s restaurant, designated as 2440 Estero Blvd, has been a parking lot for almost 20 years. It is currently owned by Ron Yanke and operated by Dave Walton. Greg Stewart of Stewart and Associates represented Yanke and Walton.
Noble explained that this special exception request was a result of Town Council’s decision to eliminate seasonal parking lots in favor of permanent shared use lots with required buffering and setbacks. The lot in question has been used as a seasonal lot. The new lot will hold 29 parking spaces and have no night lighting.
The requested variances included allowing a single row hedge in a 2-foot buffer along Estero Blvd, where current regulations require a 15-foot wide buffer with 5 trees per 100 lineal feet with a double staggered hedge. Another variance asked for a 1-foot buffer and low fence along Mango St, rather than the 15-foot with trees and double hedge. Other requests included no landscaping hedges along the remaining two property lines using a low fence instead. The final request was to allow the lot to reopen (it’s been closed since August) while it is brought into compliance. The applicant asked for 18 months to do that.
After a short recess for a conference between Town Manager Roger Hernstadt, and Stewart, Hernstadt told the LPA that the Town would like one of the conditions to be that a Limited Development Order (LDO) be applied for and approved within 180 days of council approving the request with a $500/day fine if not met.
Historic Preservation Board
With former HPB Chair Suzanne Katt no longer on the LPA and HPB, Dan Hendrickson took the reins as HPB Chair, asking Scott Safford to join him and Megan Heil as LPA members of the Historic Advisory Committee.
Hendrickson asked that the HPB approve two historic plaque applications, one for the building that housed the first beach school – 2563 Cottage Avenue, built in 1940, and the house that holds Heavenly Biscuit – 110 Mango St, built in 1927. Both were approved unanimously.
A review of the LPA Policies and Procedures Manual was postponed as Chair Hank Zuba asked for it to be edited and commented on the number of grammatical errors in the manual.
Beach Restrooms & Big Houses
During Member Items, Heil asked whether the Town could condition parking lot approval on the provision of restrooms for the public and then asked why the beach does not provide any services for visitors at the beach, specifically restrooms.
“We are a public beach. Why doesn’t the beach provide services? To expect one bathroom to suffice for a 7-mile island is ridiculous. Where are they supposed to go?”
Heil responded to her own question by saying that Ms. Gore of Town Council has said they are to use restrooms in restaurants and hotels.
Several other LPA members chimed in objecting to that strategy, commenting that the businesses that visitors patronize may not be anywhere near when visitors need a restroom.
“There are lots of businesses with signs that say, ‘No Public Restrooms,’” said Jane Plummer.
Scott Safford commented on the difficulty businesses near the beach have in dealing with the constant requests to use their restrooms. “I hate when somebody comes in and obviously has to go to the bathroom, but you have to draw the line somewhere. Once you let in 1-2, you’re going to have to let in 15-20. It becomes a liability issue, especially toward the end of the day, when visitors may have been drinking.”
Noble said, “This has been a council issue.”
Vice-Chair Dan Hendrickson presented a ‘position paper’ and discussed an option for the LPA to look at residential development in a proactive rather than reactive manner. He suggested that the LPA consider forming an Ad Hoc Committee to discuss options available.
“There are two things that are true,” Hendrickson said. “There is a developmental trend for bigger, seemingly boxier homes on the island, and there is no reason to think that will change. I have to wonder if there is anything we can do proactively on this issue.”
His paper suggested a full review of the Comp Plan and Land Development Code as to current limitation on residential development in all zoning districts along with gathering information on past development trends and a prediction of expected development. His proposal also would review the regulatory tools available to influence future development including Floor to Area ratio, impervious coverage, setbacks, height restrictions, design standards and view corridors.
The Ad Hoc group would review all findings with the Town Manager and Town Attorney to avoid Bert Harris challenges, ultimately reporting findings to the Town Council.
Plummer suggested including developers and builders, as they are the ones who deal directly with property owners building new homes. “The cost to build new construction in today’s world is immense. So they have to take advantage of all their setbacks to recoup their costs. We have limited what can be done based on our height and taken out our view corridors. The one thing that could be looked at is we could consider bringing in those sides (setbacks) and allow another floor.”
When asked, Noble said that there are about 12-14 new homes built per year on Fort Myers Beach.
During Public Comment, John Gucciardo spoke on the TPI downtown redevelopment project, saying that project planners are working with town staff, but that staff turnover and new outside consultants, which are a positive thing, he said, still slow down the process. TPI is looking forward to a public hearing and hopes it will be in front of the LPA in December.
Zuba and several other LPA members commented that the county continues to use the former Seafarer’s site as a staging and storage yard in violation of the Town’s code.
The next meeting of the LPA is scheduled for Tuesday, November 14th at 9am in Town Hall