LPA Declines to Vacate ROW Property


At their November meeting the Fort Myers Beach Local Planning Agency (LPA), meeting with just four members – Vice-Chair Joanne Shamp, Bruce Butcher, Suzanne Katt and Dan Hendrickson, considered three different requests for residential properties.


Bayland ROW Vacate Request

A request to vacate a strip of land in the right of way (ROW) in front of 400 Bayland Road owned by Judy Haataja was denied by a unanimous vote. The application asked that the Town vacate a strip of land in front of the applicant’s home, about 12 feet by about 30 feet, located at the end of Bayland Road, adjacent to the bay.

Town of Fort Myers Beach Principal Planner Matt Noble told the LPA that Town staff did not support the request.

“This is waterfront property. We don’t know what the property can be used for at this point. We had hoped that the reFRESH Waterlines or Estero Projects would be further along and we’d know by now whether we needed this land, but the Waterlines project has been adjusted so that they can keep the project on time and ahead of the county road project. Side street planning is just not done yet and we don’t know when it will be.

“I can’t stand in front of you and say we do or do not need that property. We just don’t know,” Noble said. “We are also a little concerned that it would be precedent setting in nature and don’t think that it’s a good idea to be vacating waterfront property”

Bruce Butcher asked if there would be any consideration paid for the vacated property or if the Town was just expected to give it away.

Though he never got a clear answer, LPA Attorney Dawn Lehnert explained that vacation eliminates the public’s interest in the property.

Suzanne Katt questioned whether the land would legally go to the applicant if vacated, as there is a question about title status for that strip of land. The staff report indicates that Bayland Road and ROW was platted as part of the Holiday Shores subdivision, but the applicant’s property was platted as part of the adjacent Bayland Heights subdivision. Lehnert said that staff wanted an unequivocal opinion of title and didn’t receive one from the applicant.

Speaking for Haataja, Attorney Beverly Grady described the requested land as “a very small strip of land.” She described working with Haataja since 2014 on this request. She said she was told that Tetra Tech (waterline contractor) would have plans for that area in April 2016, but that still hasn’t happened. The applicant wanted to proceed anyway.

Grady explained that Haataja would agree to future easements for waterline, stormwater or road projects that needed the land. She said her client primarily wanted to increase the setback for her house, which is 14.9 feet now and told of how her client has maintained the ROW land and installed a seawall at the end of Bayland with her neighbor.

When Butcher asked about a possible kayak launch at the end of Bayland Rd, Grady objected to any use other than as a street, waterline or drainage, claiming that the road was dedicated as a street. Any more intense use, such as a neighborhood park or a kayak launch would not be in keeping with the original dedication. She then added that talk of using Tourist Development Council funds in residential neighborhoods was a concern and her client wanted some protection – that extra 12 feet of space between her house and public land.

Even knowing there is no timetable for side street reFRESH planning, Grady wanted an LPA decision so they could take the request to Town Council.

After discussion, LPA members voted 4-0 to deny the request with the consensus being that the Town doesn’t know yet whether it will need that land and has concerns regarding setting a precedent.


Fence Approved

A variance for a 6-foot fence at 209/211 Ostego Drive was quickly approved. The applicant Mike Ratliff’s property has a street on three sides of the lot. A fence that had been in place fell down and was removed. He described a litany of ongoing privacy and security problems in his yard related to the lot’s proximity to the commercial properties of the U.S. Post Office and Key Estero Shops including vandalism, public urination and vagrants sleeping and showering in his yard.

Ratliff also said that he felt the $1,000 variance fee was out of line for a fence project and the hurdles that “are thrown in front of people trying to improve their property discourages people from following the Town’s codes.”

After a discussion of sight lines and a letter from Lucinda Keller objecting to the variance was admitted to the record, the LPA voted 4-0 to approve it.


Setback & Coverage Variance Approved

The final variance request was for a “Florida Room” at 290 Donora Blvd. The applicant Pete Oiderma requested two variances, one to allow lot building coverage of 42.12% (the code maximum is 40%) and the second to allow a water body setback of 23 feet rather than the code minimum 25 feet.

Oiderma explained that the Florida room would give his home more usable space and protect it from the sun.

Shamp noted that it was a de minimus request with no change to an existing non-conforming setback before the LPA voted 4-0 to approve the variance request.

The next LPA meeting is December 13, 2016 at 9am in Council Chambers.


Missy Layfield