The biggest development in our Town’s history has just been cleared for take-off. The last remaining legal action, a Writ of Certiorari request, was ruled on this week by a Lee County judge, who denied the request. The 14-page ruling, which can be found on the Town’s website, states pretty clearly that the Town’s efforts to review the project and their approval are valid.
Appeal is always a legal possibility, but after withdrawing the previous lawsuit that accompanied this one months ago, it doesn’t seem logical.
There are people in our Town who don’t want Margaritaville to be built. They have the right to that opinion and to stay away once it’s built. But they are not in the majority.
Most in our Town are sick of looking at a blighted downtown area. And no, the current owners, the developers of Margaritaville – FMB, are not responsible for the blight. Those buildings were dilapidated long before they were purchased for this project.
Most in our Town are looking forward to seeing our downtown area grow. Make no mistake Margaritaville will be just the beginning. A beautiful new resort in the heart of downtown is going to inspire other improvements.
As Mayor Cereceda said this week: People take ownership in this Island. Whether they work here, or visit on weekends, vacation here or live here, our Island inspires a passion of place in those who come to know it.
Some resent that, claiming that only those who have lived here for decades have a right to say they care about our Island. They are wrong. We have an unusually rich and geographically diverse Island community. They don’t all vote here or sleep here 52 weeks a year, but make no mistake, they are all Islanders who care passionately about our Island and our community.
It has been a rocky road to this point. In Whale-gate, some of our elected officials met just days before they were to vote, and discussed the lawsuits with their friend, the plaintiff. While this behavior was declared not in violation of Florida Sunshine laws, it was just plain wrong and showed divided loyalty.
We learn in this week’s ruling, that then-Mayor Gore, who proudly claimed friendship with those filing and backing the lawsuits against the Town, of which she was Mayor, took a whopping 7 weeks to sign the unanimously approved Ordinance authorizing the resort. Seven weeks. Even with the final revisions, our Town was poorly served by that delay. Was it poor legal support? Poor oversight by our Town Manager? Or was it part of an effort to delay the project long enough for developers to abandon it? We thought that delay began with the lawsuits, but it may have begun even before that, with a sitting mayor taking 7 weeks to sign an ordinance, starting the 30-day clock for the filing of the opposing lawsuits. Very curious. Those shady dealings are behind us. We shouldn’t forget them, but don’t need to wallow in them either.
Now is the time to look forward and move on as our Island leaders ask. Let’s focus on how we can enhance our Island and continue our growth.