The Local Planning Agency (LPA) for the Town of Fort Myers Beach unanimously approved three Public Hearings on Tuesday morning, March 12. In addition to these, the LPA received a Scope of Work preview on the Town’s upcoming Parking Study, a Historic Preservation Board update on the list of Estero Island’s most historic homes, and glimpsed possible new Town entry signs. In attendance were LPA Chair Megan Heil and members James Atterholt, Dan Hughes, Scott Safford, Timothy Smith, and Lorrie Wolf, with Jane Plummer on a absence and Wolf leaving roughly two-thirds through the roughly 95-minute meeting.
The LPA considered a “Land Development Code (LDC) Text Amendment for Engineering Standards & Construction Details,” to adopt these by reference and to remove conflicts. The potentially updated document was complete in June 2018 and will provide appropriate drawings for use by the public and engineering professionals, to update and establish additional standards for common engineering details and requirements by reference, and allow for administrative updates as Federal, State, and Local standards change.
“This has previously been before you,” said contract Community Development Director Jason Green, “as an LDC text amendment to remove duplication of language and clean up inconsistencies with local requirements.” Smith began to ask and suggest detailed clarifications, but Green stated that many of those smaller issues are up to the discretion of the Public Works Director and not this, drawing support from Hughes: “I appreciate what Tim is saying, but our function is to adopt the LDC Amendment that incorporates the references; it is not the LPA role to review technical standards.”
“If you want us to approve something, I need to make sure it is correct before we approve it,” countered Smith. Green and Town Attorney John Herin, Jr., thought Hughes correct, but Green asked Smith to submit to him all his comments for review, “as they are all important,” with Hughes agreeing that “I appreciate all that Tim has done.” The LPA then unanimously approved the LDC Text Amendment.
Under “Edison Beach House (EBH) Commercial Planned Development (CPD) Amendment to Allow Parasailing,” LPA members asked questions confirming that this request was not an expansion of the previously approved limit of seven parasail contract vendors on Fort Myers Beach; it did not include other items such as waverunner or beach chair rentals; the parasail business booth was removable each evening for nesting sea turtle safety; and adjacent neighbors were not against the proposal. After receiving these assurances, the LPA unanimously approved the EBH CPD Parasailing Amendment.
Under “Variance Requests to the Rear, Water, & Side Yard Setbacks for 215 Primo Drive,” property owner Mark Kuehn requested the Variances to replace the house’s existing stairs and deck, with some work already done due to an emergency situation following the death of a previous tenant who fell on the rotting steps. Atterholt received confirmation that “the neighbors are comfortable with these changes,” and Kuehn informed the LPA that he would replace the old steps with a spiral staircase “to provide more room for the setback; I am not taking any more ground!” The LPA unanimously approved the three Variance requests.
Parking, Historic Homes & Entry Signs
Under Administrative Agenda, Green provided LPA members the Scope of Work for the Town’s Parking Study Contract, saying “this is an opportunity for you to review this before it goes before Town Council next week, so feel free to pass along any comments to me. The study will cost roughly $16,000.” Hughes asked why the Parking Study Contract for Walker Consultants seemed to be with the City of Clearwater, and it is his experience that you approve a contract first, then negotiate the fee.
Green stated that Fort Myers Beach is piggybacking on the contract through Clearwater, as Walker Consultants are a recognized industry leader, to collect parking data to better assist Town Council and Staff to develop a comprehensive public parking policy through Land Development Codes and related items concerning Fort Myers Beach parking conditions. Herin made a commitment to the LPA that the piggyback contract will properly protect the Town before it reaches Council, with Green adding that the proposed fee is within the Town’s budgeted amount.
Safford asked if this study would allow Council to mandate that parking lots offer port-a-potties, especially in season, with Heil agreeing, “All these businesses do is take in money without offering any related services, forcing patrons to use the few public restrooms on Fort Myers Beach or, more likely, those in adjacent restaurants and bars that then assume that potential liability.”
Herin stated that Town Council would have to mandate those conditions, with Green adding, “That is outside the scope of work but great feedback! This study may indicate to us that we have more parking than people realize, as they will provide observations on signage, what time of day offers the most parking, and the number of spaces available, to drive the next part of the conversation. All those pieces are separate but related so we have to have the data collection for Council and Staff recommendations. We hope to start this next week, be done by the end of the first week of April, and have the report to Council in May.”
The LPA adjourned at 10:18 a.m., reconvening as the Historic Preservation Board, where Safford stated, “We moved forward to combine all the lists of potential Fort Myers Beach historic homes onto one master list that could qualify for the Historic Recognition Program, and we cut that down to the ‘Top 50 List!’ Lorrie Wolf and Betty Simpson made a presentation on the ‘Top 50’ to the FMB Woman’s Club last week, about what we are trying to achieve, and will do so again at the April public program at the FMB Public Library, to really get things moving forward!” Green volunteered to add the information to the Town’s Facebook Page, with Safford reminding everyone that there are still two openings on the Historic Preservation Board, so contact the Town if you wish to serve. The Historic Preservation Board adjourned and reconvened as the LPA at 10:21 a.m.
Under LPA Member Items, Safford stated how he found the recent joint meeting with Town Council “very helpful, and I hope we do that again, especially with a new Town Council coming in on March 18; it was amazing on how much we agree!” Heil concurred, saying that she would like quarterly joint Town Council / LPA meetings “to come to a consensus. We look forward to working with new Council members Rexann Hosafros and Ray Murphy and thank Tracey Gore and Dennis Boback for their service.”
Under “Community Development Items,” Green and Public Works Director Chelsea O’Riley presented the LPA with three different options for new Fort Myers Beach entry signs at the north and south ends, and asking for their opinions. “These are very preliminary,” said O’Riley, “so this is a fluid project for right now and a great deal of fun, to capture the feel and vibe of Fort Myers Beach, with Council wanting these in place by the end of the current fiscal year.”
By Gary Mooney