Wednesday, April 10, marks one year since the Fort Myers Beach Town Council unanimously approved the TPI-FMB project that would later be branded Margaritaville Fort Myers Beach. That was quite a week in Town Hall as council took two days to hash out all the details before a large crowd of residents, most of whom were supportive of the project. Afterwards, TPI Hospitality began the work that would get the project moving.
Meanwhile the sour grapes crowd used free space in this newspaper and others to promote a meeting for the disgruntled and then barred the press from attending it. Yep, that still rankles. Lani Kai Resort owner Robert Conidaris spoke, or rambled, depending on your viewpoint, against the project during council’s public hearing, and then when council did not vote his way, recruited residents to file a lawsuit against the town. Not a town resident himself, he ‘lacked standing,’ as we learned in Whalegate. He also bought space in local publications to criticize the approved project and make some amusing, if not accurate, claims about it and those who support it. If his opposition to the project and his later backing of the lawsuits against it are supposed to be a secret, they’re the worst kept secrets of the millennium.
His efforts bore fruit when island resident Chris Patton, using Conidaris’ attorneys, (or vice versa) filed two lawsuits on August 8, 2018 against the town, 120 days after council’s approval of the project. In layman’s terms, that is just under the wire. Clearly planned that way to delay the project as long as possible. Following the lawsuits through court filings, it looks like their delay tactics have continued. Everyone knows the wheels of justice turn slowly. They turn even slower when the plaintiff takes the maximum time allowable to respond to requests – seven weeks in one case and asks for extra time to respond to inquiries.
I’m not a lawyer, nor did I stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night, but if I had a strong case, one I expected to win, I’d want the case in front of the judge as quickly as possible to get the ruling I expected. If I didn’t have a strong case, I’d try to delay as long as possible in hopes that TPI would fold up their tents and take their project elsewhere.
Clearly, they do not understand TPI leadership very well.
Their delay tactics have only shown how committed TPI and Tom Torgerson is to the Fort Myers Beach community and this project, that the community, minus the sour grapes crowd, wants to see brought to fruition.
This is going to be one of those projects that, when completed, we look back on and think, “What were they so afraid of?”
It’s been a year since the project was approved. We have not seen any erosion of support for the project in the community. If anything, support has grown. So, if those who are using the justice system to delay this project are hoping to gain community support, they are failing.
Missy & Bob Layfield