At their last meeting of 2015 on Tuesday morning, the Local Planning Agency (LPA) rejected some of the more stringent elements of a beach chair rental amendment to the Land Development Code (LDC) and agreed that Nervous Nellie’s Consumption on Premises (COP) permit should be modified to allow amplified music outside, provided it fits within certain parameters.
At the beginning of the meeting, Senior Planner Megan Will read into the record a letter from Eric O’Gilvie, property owner at 61 Avenue C, stating that the proposed beach chair amendments vary greatly from what was recommended at a workshop held with vendors on September 4.
She then explained how the chair rental issue came to be in front of the LPA.
“Beginning last spring, there were conversations with Council that there were too many chair vendors and that a number of the large condominiums had asked for cabana/chair rentals and were told no,” Will began. “Last May, we met with Council and in July staff began drafting amendments which were presented on August 13. Throughout the next couple of months, we had meetings with vendors and revisions were made.”
Megan explained that current Town staff determined that previous interpretations of the LDC were incorrect, and that code only allows chair rentals at properties with 50+ units, designated resorts and as a ‘primary use’ in the downtown district only.
“The major revisions we made are the establishment of a beach chair permit, which was previously done under commercial use permits and those with parasail and personal watercraft permits (PWVL/PAL) were told they could rent chairs as well – though, under those sections, the LDC doesn’t address chair rentals,” she said.
Will said that Council originally discussed allowing all multi-family properties with at least 10 units to be eligible for a permit, with a cap of around 14 total permits.
“Since there were too many properties with 10+ units, this amendment would continue to allow rentals at resorts, and multi-family properties and condominiums with 60+ units,” she said. “It would also remove the provision for ‘principal use’ for downtown properties since permits issued for restaurants are actually accessory uses which are not allowable under the code.”
Other staff recommended changes to the LDC included screened holding areas behind the dune line, the requirement of a site plan, insurance and 6 feet aisles for every fifty feet of linear beach where the chairs are being placed. All non-conforming vendors would get two years from July 1st, 2015 to come into conformance.
Jim Steele asked what the cost of the insurance would be, and Will replied she doesn’t know but it’s consistent with what’s charged to the personal watercraft vendors.
“How many permits have been issued currently?” he asked. “Eight, plus the resorts,” Will replied.
“Have all of those not holding licenses been notified of the meeting today?” he asked, and Megan replied that it was noticed in the paper.
Jane Plummer said this is way over-regulated, and that it makes no sense to force three chair rental businesses that have been operating for over 20 years – Rebel Watersports in Time Square, Action Watersports at Junkanoo and All Island Watersports behind Hurricane Tina’s – to close.
“This takes the little guy out, and makes the big guys bigger – these three have been in business for 20+ years,” she said. “We just made an exception to keep one of them in business and now we’re going to kick him out again?”
“If they weren’t needed, they wouldn’t have been in business all these years,” she said. “People in condos are already there, they can just bring their chairs down to the beach. I am totally 100% against this.”
Al Durrett asked how many people who complained about chair rentals were present, and Joe Stockton was the only one who raised his hand.
“I can’t see putting anybody out of business who has been here a long time just because someone called in a complaint,” he said.
Stockton said his major complaint is that businesses are setting up their chairs too close to the beach accesses, and that creating a larger setback along the sides of the accesses would allow people to enjoy the beach.
After much discussion, the LPA decided they could not support the amendments as written and voted unanimously to adopt the resolution with the following changes: to allow chair rentals at properties with 50 units or more as currently exists in the resort definition; that any number that limits the amount of permits be removed, that the Town grandfather the existing PWVL’s who have also been historically renting beach chairs and prohibit them from transferring or selling their chair permits, that the setback from beach accesses be at least 10’ except for properties with less than 75’ at which point the setback would be 10%.
Next, Robert Fowler, representing Nervous Nellies, asked that the LPA modify their outdoor COP to allow amplified music
“We have a new operator, Len Lemmer, who has been able to establish a far better relationship with Marina Village,” he said. “When he asked me to represent him, he said he wanted to do something that would end with everyone smiling. We had a meeting with Paul Rosen and the Marina Village board, so we’ve added two conditions: that the music be in the southern half of the outdoor seating area – furthest away from the condos – and that we have a master control system for the speakers located within the building – like air conditioning, you can turn it up or down.”
Lauren Dillard, representing Marina Village, handed the LPA a letter from the board supporting the request, subject to the following conditions: all outdoor equipment generating sound must be managed by an internal speaker system, the speakers must be oriented towards the water, and outdoor entertainment ends by 11pm.
“I think we’re in a whole new situation now, with the work that went into the noise ordinance and the communication we’ve had,” she said.
Chamber President Bud Nocera also spoke in favor of the change.
“Getting the music back is getting back to some semblance of normal for the entire street,” he said.
Principal Planner Matt Noble said that all residents within 500 feet of Nervous Nellie’s were notified of this hearing, and no one has objected.
Chair Hank Zuba asked Fowler if he would be willing to provide a parallel public walkway for people coming off the docks, and Fowler replied that he plans to as soon as his permits go through.
Shamp moved that the LPA recommend approval with the three conditions specified. It passed unanimously.
At the end of the meeting, Zuba commented that Grand Resorts developer Tom Torgerson had offered to make a presentation to them today, but – on the advice of Lehnert – was told such a thing would be premature and that all communication needed to go through Town Council and Town staff.
The next meeting of the LPA will be held on Tuesday, January 12 at 9am at Town Hall, 2525 Estero Boulevard.
Fort Myers Beach