The Town of Fort Myers Beach hosted two bay public access plan preview sessions for residents of Hercules and Coconut Drives in Town Hall on Wednesday, May 24.
The Hercules session, conducted by Town Public Works Director Scott Baker and Mark Kincaid, senior engineer from Coastal Engineering Consultants, with Brett Messner of Tetra Tech Engineers and Kaye Molnar of Cella Molnar & Associates in support, drew roughly 10 neighbors. Mark explained the new pier configuration uses basically the same footprint as the old one, takes into consideration the deteriorating seawall and bay cut-in, and the upcoming stormwater line leading to a joint outfall to the Back Bay.
Mark proposes that the improvement include a new seawall parallel with the existing ones to the immediate north and south. “This will provide a better look, and you will not have debris washing up in your neighborhood; rather it will flow along the seawall. We will fill in that new space and extend the land at the end of your street an additional 19 feet, creating 30 to 35 percent more greenspace, and that is a pretty good chunk of real estate. As for stormwater, all we do is extend the pipe the same distance to the outfall.” The pier walkway will be five feet wide, with the terminal platform 12 by 24 feet, with a timber substructure and synthetic lumber deck.
“I think this is a ‘Win-Win,’” Mark said, “as we will need 19 less feet for the pier, will replace the old seawall and reduce debris, is ADA-accessible, and gains greenspace, all for less money. It all just kind-of fell into place when we talked about everything going together, so I believe it will be a positive thing.” As Mark made his presentation, neighbors frequently murmured, “that’s nice,” “very nice,” and “that will look terrific!” They were especially happy that the Town will not remove the nearby large tree.
Scott said if this plan receives approval, the seawall will come before the pier, as the Town already applied for that Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permit last October, while it cannot file for the pier until Town Council provides authorization. An audience member asked when the outfall work would begin, with Brett saying the Town is awaiting that permit as well, but he estimates by September or October, with Scott adding, “stormwater will get done before the pier.” He then asked the Hercules neighbors if they like the design, and received a unanimous consensus.
Shortly after this, the same staff hosted a meeting for the new Coconut Drive bay access for approximately 15 people. Like Hercules, it takes up roughly the same footprint as the former one. “We will make it ADA-accessible,” explained Mark, “by widening the walkway from 3-1/2 to 5 feet, with the platform 8 by 14 feet, making it much easier and safer to use. We will rotate it slightly, to be parallel to the property line, as opposed to its current 7-foot lean to the south. It will have the same 3.2-foot elevation, with a railing on the south and around the terminal platform, with the north side open for boat dockings.” Like the Hercules pier, it will be a timber substructure with synthetic lumber deck.
When asked who will maintain the pier and what hours it will be open, Scott said “the Town will own and maintain it, and it is under our Parks & Recreation ordinance, so sun up to sun down.” Another neighbor wondered if the pier were subject to the 25-foot setback, with Mark replying, “that will be impossible, as the area is only 50 feet, so this will require a variance, and the DEP provides a similar exemption.” Scott then asked the Coconut neighbors their opinion, and again received a unanimous vote.
Mark and Scott explained separately to each group that the timeline for both is basically the same. The plans go to Town Council in June, to attain its permission. “The pier itself is under the DEP and that permitting should receive approval in roughly 60 days, so fairly quick,” said Mark. “The Army Corp of Engineers has to review it as well, and since they send it to all their sister government agencies for their consent, such as the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, unfortunately that will take about 300 days, though I have some projects that waited 1 to 2 years, and none of us here have any control over the government bureaucracy.”
“Once Council approves,” assured Scott, “we will do our bidding beforehand, so as soon as we get the permits in hand, we will be ready to build. We will pass out neighborhood notices with any new information, and will keep you in the loop.”