An effort to wrangle the madness that is Fort Myers Beach visitor parking took another step Tuesday morning when the LPA unanimously approved changes to the Land Development Code (LDC) related to surplus parking.
The Town recently took steps to clean up its parking rules in the LDC by eliminating seasonal parking lots, resulting in several lots becoming permanent parking lots and thereby required to meet requirement for permanent lots.
Several business lots have sold their parking spaces to visitors during season, with a few selling parking year round, sometimes creating a parking shortage for existing tenants and business customers. The surplus parking code was born of an effort to regulate which properties could sell their surplus spaces.
The ordinance defines surplus parking as “additional parking spaces above and beyond those spaces required by the (LDC) to support specific land uses…” The change will only apply to lots having over 10 spaces. A permit would require a plan that includes the total number of spaces, the number of required spaces for existing uses and the number of designated surplus spaces. The cost of the use permit is not spelled out in the proposal. The ordinance now goes to Town Council for their approval.
LPA Chair Hank Zuba then addressed the issue of Grade Level Housing, or more specifically, the number of properties in the Town of Fort Myers Beach having illegal ground floor units, having been built after floodplain regulations required that all habitable space be located above the Base Flood Elevation. Zuba had prepared a summary of what he learned when researching the problem. He said he was concerned about the safety factor as the work would have been done without permits and therefore would not have been inspected. He cited the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District’s 2016 Fire Safety Ordinance calling for registration and inspection of transient, timeshare and vacation rentals and non-owner occupied two family homes.
When Zuba asked for input, LPA member Jane Plummer, a real estate agent, reported problems that a local rental company had reported with the fire ordinance and the cost to put in required fire safety items such as handrails and fire extinguishers.
Code Enforcement Officer Molly Jacobs was at the meeting and answered several questions related to the amount of time staff spends on explaining the floodplain regulations. Jacobs said it could be as high as 25% of their time in a given day.
The LPA generally agreed that new property buyers were often unaware of both the flood plain regulations limiting ground floor habitation in many homes an the 50% rule, limiting the value of renovations before a property must be brought up to current code. The also agreed that the lack of that knowledge leads many new homeowners to plan renovations that will not be permitted.
A discussion followed on how the Town would access any property with a suspected illegal ground floor unit.
LPA Attorney Dawn Lehnert told the LPA that they couldn’t require a disclosure statement on real estate purchases in the Town. She added that property inspections could only be done in Florida with a warrant or an invitation, she said.
Plummer said that the Town’s code enforcement has always been complaint driven and should stay that way.
Zuba concluded the discussion by asking Jacobs to return to the next LPA meeting with Division Chief Ron Martin of the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District for further discussion of grade level housing and safety issues.
Before leaving, Jacobs introduced new Code Enforcement Officer Joe Kontomanolis
The Historic Preservation Board, chaired by Suzanne Katt asked for another LPA member to join her and Dan Hendrickson on the Historic Advisory Committee. Katt suggested Megan Heil, the newest LPA member and Heil agreed.
A.J Bassett, Fran Santini and Linda Meador were appointed to the HAC also.
During Member Items, Heil said that the town was “very bike un-friendly” and she’d like to change that. Bruce Butcher told the LPA that there is a Bike Ped Master Plan public workshop the next day and urged people to attend.
Hendrickson suggested that the LPA appoint someone to attend council meetings and represent the LPA when previous LPA agenda items are on council’s agenda. He agreed to attend the Feb 21 council meeting.
Scott Safford brought up the problem of the lack of bathrooms at beach accesses, reporting that businesses are being inundated with visitors looking for a restroom and they are not very happy about it.
“It’s a health issue, a tourist issue,” he said.
Heil agreed, “I run on the beach in the early morning and many businesses aren’t open yet. Ms. Gore suggested at a council meeting that visitors should use hotel restrooms, but this is a public beach and a destination. We need to provide amenities.”
Plummer added, “It’s important to note that as you go into many beach businesses, there’s a sign that says, ‘No public bathroom.’”
The next LPA meeting will be Tuesday, March 14, 2017 at Town Hall at 9am.