Over a hundred residents of San Carlos Island packed the meeting hall at the Moose Lodge last Thursday night, many of them unhappy with plans to develop the old Compass Rose property into a new mixed-use residential space with a marina and 14-story condominium building.
The meeting began with Jim Ink of Inkwerks Coastal Design giving a bit of history about the property – located at the corner of Oak and Main Street – on which Compass Rose Marina sat for many years until Hurricane Charley destroyed it in 2004.
“Charley destroyed it beyond repair, so the original owner decided to rebuild, and in 2007 got approved for a 286 square foot storage space, a rackominium (boat barn) and a 3-story Ship’s Store,” Ink said. “Work began, but then the economic crisis hit, and the project failed and the property was taken over by the bank.”
The 8 parcel, 7.58-acre site was purchased for $2.1 million in June 2015 by Southern Comfort Storage, LLC. Jack Mayher, whose Compass Rose Marina Joint Venture LLC lost the site to foreclosure in 2010, purchased the property in June joining with Stanley Smagala, President of Capital Acquisitions and Development, Inc. a Palos Hills, Illinois based firm, to form Southern Comfort Storage LLC.
Ink pointed out that the property has sat vacant since 2010, with rusted foundations covered in weeds surrounded by a chain-link fence.
“My client purchased the property in 2015, and decided to create a mixed-use space that we feel fits better with the surrounding community,” he said. “All of the original permits for the rebuild are still in place, so we are now seeking both a zoning and a land-use change from Lee County so we can build the residential part.”
What is being proposed, and what Ink showed the residents on Thursday night, is called ‘Bay Harbour Marina Village’. The project will include a 14-story residential building with 113 rental units, 35 of which will be ‘moderate income’ housing – meaning they will rent for between $1,500 and $1,700/month; a 286 space boat barn, 29 wet slips that will be open to the public; an indoor/outdoor parking garage with 520 spaces that will also be open to the public; and four two-story residential townhouses that will be for sale. The plan also calls for a number of amenities that will be located on the roofs of the buildings: a pool, restaurant, plaza, garden and children’s play area.
Ink told the gathered residents that, though the residential building will be taller than both the Matanzas Pass Bridge and the Diversified Yacht Services building at Fisherman’s Wharf, it is not nearly as tall as the buildings included in the Ebb Tide development planned for further down Main Street on San Carlos Island.
“The marina’s height will be 65 feet, and the condo will be 175 feet – that’s less than Ebb Tide’s 230 feet,” he said. “We will be upgrading Main Street from Oak to San Carlos Blvd. as part of the plan, and Lee County will ensure that we cover our own infrastructure costs. The entire project will be well landscaped, have its own stormwater treatment ability and contain subdued, turtle-friendly lighting.”
After a comment from the audience about the parking garage, Ink explained that he expects half the spaces will be used by people at the village, with the other half open to the public.
“But there will be no Lee Tran stop there – if people want to park there and go to Fort Myers Beach, they will have to walk,” he said. “This is for the residents of San Carlos Island.”
Most of the residents’ concerns had to with the additional traffic the project would bring – especially the parking garage, the fact that the building will be taller than anything else on the island and that the ‘moderate income’ housing units may attract ‘undesirables’ should the rents have to be lowered if no one could afford $1,500/month.
“You’re trying to put 15 pounds into a 5 pound bag,” said one man, echoing the sentiment of many in the room. “The traffic is so bad you can’t get out of here now as it is during season.”
Another woman, a resident of Buttonwood Lane, pointed out how unsafe it is to make a left turn off Main Street to go over the bridge and that many people choose to go down Buttonwood and wait for the light instead.
“There’s not even a left hand turn lane there, so traffic backs up,” she said. “What will happen when this gets built?”
Ink replied that that would be addressed during the traffic analysis, which is a requirement for getting a development order.
Not all the response was negative, however. One woman’s comment that the project would take away what has been an eyesore for many years was met with some applause. In general, most residents had no problem with the marina, they just didn’t like the residential building and parking garage.
Bay Harbour’s developers will have to clear several hurdles before they get close to a development order. On December 14 at 8:30am, there will be a land use hearing in the Lee County Commissioner’s chambers, and on December 17 at 1pm, the Hearing Examiner will listen to the zoning request. Both will have to be approved by the Board of Lee County Commissioners (BoCC), a decision Ink expects ‘sometime in early 2016’.
Meanwhile, those seeking more information on the project can stop by the site anytime between 8am and noon on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Friday where a representative will be present to answer questions.
Keri Hendry Weeg