Organizers for the “Roar Offshore” Powerboat Races, with activities scheduled October 10 – 12 expected to attract roughly 70,000 visitors to Fort Myers Beach, attended the Town Council Meeting on Monday, August 19, seeking approval of their Special Events Permit. After significant concerns were voiced by several council members over the portable toilet and trash plan for such a large crowd, Council tabled any permit action until its next meeting on September 9, just one month prior to the Roar Offshore event.
Tim & Cyndee Hill, Roar Offshore President & Vice President, requested not only the Special Events Permit, but a waiver of the Town’s $100 permit fee, $4,572 in parking fees and the Open Container regulations for Times Square, Old San Carlos Boulevard and several other downtown streets for the Race Boat Parade & Street Party on Thursday evening, October 10. Friday, October 11, features time trials and the Festival of Speed, with Race Day on Saturday, October 12, from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Tim Hill hoped the Town would waive $4,672 in Fees because race organizers already must allocate roughly $85,000 in related costs to Lee County, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, and Emergency Medical Services, stating that every dollar they have to pay is one less they can contribute to local charities. Council member Rexann Hosafros stated, “The Town, of all people, is in the least favorable position to waive its fees, as we are tiny! I am sorry others are not treating you so well.”
Toilet & Trash Plans
Council member Joanne Shamp then began her comments with the caveat: “I am really excited about this, so don’t interpret what I am about to say that I am not! You are expecting 70,000 people and that is a lot of people! Here is what I worry about now – you may have basically 20,000 people from Lynn Hall Park to Junkanoo On The Beach, with only eight port-a-potties at Lynn Hall Park and eight at Crescent Beach Family Park and the Town does not have any public restroom facilities in that stretch. In doing research, the suggestion is 150 port-a-potties for every 10,000 people and 10 to 15% more with alcohol. Secondly, that will be a lot of trash and litter on the beachfront, so that is a problem. You have a dumpster at Lynn Hall Park, but what about the rest of the beach. I know what the beach looks like after the 4th of July and this will be much bigger than that.”
Cyndee Hill responded that they are examining an additional dumpster at the former TOPPS Grocery Store site and they are working closely with “Keep Lee County Beautiful” to clean Fort Myers Beach, not only during the event, but for a large-scale cleanup on Sunday, October 13, at 8 a.m.
Shamp, however, emphasized her concerns. “We have to have some more places for toilets for the Special Events Permit or else we will have a problem with people urinating and defecating on people’s yards, as most of our beach is privately owned, as well as people getting dehydrated from alcohol and passing out on the beach. You and I want this to be a success so it becomes an annual event, but people in the Town will not want it back unless you take care of this. We do not allow glass bottles or cans on the beach, and we will most likely need to use Town employees to police this, as they know our Beach Ordinances, and our taxpayers will have to pay for that. I would like to see an overhead map with port-a-pottie locations and a trash plan; I need to see something in detail that will make this a successful event.”
Mayor Anita Cereceda agreed, saying, “With all due respect, even if businesses and hotels are welcoming, there is no way they can deal with this type of capacity, as that will overwhelm the bathrooms in businesses on this island. I really need to see that plan for port-a-potties and trash containers for an event of this magnitude and am surprised that has not come up until this point, as that information is critical to the Town approving this; you have to have provisions for this! I don’t want to approve this until we have that map and can feel comfortable with it. You will have a viewing platform at Junkanoo and there is no way the restrooms in Junkanoo can accommodate even that crowd.”
Tim Hill pointed out that there will be six additional port-a-potties at DiamondHead Resort and they are working with the Town to locate port-a-potties at beach accesses. Town Manager Roger Hernstadt quickly interjected, “The Town did not offer beach accesses for port-a-potties, unless directed by Town Council, for the people adjacent to those will have strong feelings about that!”
Vice Mayor Ray Murphy suggested, “Island businesses should be accommodating, as they will all benefit. You would think they would want to contribute, but perhaps we should remind them.” Shamp offered, “This needs to be a cooperative effort – you must work with businesses, restaurants and hotel owners, together as a group, to figure out who will do what. Perhaps there are Tourism Development Council funds to pay for toilets and garbage pickup, as this will draw a lot of ‘heads to beds!’” “Not at this point,” explained Cereceda: “It is too late.” Hosafros related, “You have a list of committees; perhaps volunteers can pick up litter from the beach.”
Cereceda suggested Council “table this until our next meeting on September 9. I do not want to jeopardize this in any way, however I cannot support waiving the fees.” Shamp added, “You have five people on this Council who support this event, and who can’t wait for it to be a success so it can come back next year to Fort Myers Beach!” “And it will be,” added Hosafros! Council then unanimously tabled the Roar Offshore Special Events Permit until its September 9 Meeting at 9 a.m.
In other “Administrative Agenda” items, Council unanimously approved $189,277 including $22,777 in carryover funds to Infinite Construction LLC for Estero Boulevard Sidewalk improvements and replacement from the Lani Kai Island Resort to Times Square; and provided unanimous approval for the Town Manager to negotiate a contract with Redevelopment Management Associates (RMA) for Branding Services for the Town, though Council member Bruce Butcher was “disappointed they are not here today to provide a presentation,” with Hosafros adding, “no one showed up to get the job and communicate with us for the first time – this seems odd to me!” “I am disappointed in that myself,” said Cereceda. “I agree with Rexann that our first meeting should have been face-to-face, but my research indicates they are top-notch.” The Town Manager will schedule a Special September Council Meeting with RMA to initiate the Branding process.
Street Performers; Pools
Council unanimously approved five Public Hearings. During the Final Hearing for Street Performers, Council limited Times Square Street Performer Permits to 12, available annually each September 1, on a first-come; first-serve basis, but will ban Street Performers from selling any merchandise; accepting only donations. Council provided a one-year exemption for the three Street Performers who currently sell items, with total elimination effective in 2020.
Council then approved the Final Hearing for Mound House Rezoning. Under the hearing for the Schroeder Roof-Over-Deck Variance, most Council members expressed personal sympathy for the property owner, but unanimously denied the Variance because they could not find a legal criteria to approve it, meaning the property owner must remove the roof over his dock deck. Council moved the First Public Hearings for Elevated Swimming Pools and Credit Card Skimmers to their Final Hearings on September 23 at 9 a.m.
During Advisory Committee Reports, Council heard from Dan Allers from the Bay Oaks Recreational Center Advisory Board (BORCAB); and Bill Veach, who Chairs both the Cultural Resources Advisory Board (CRAB) and Marine Resources Task Force (MRTF).
Happy 90th Birthday!
Council began the meeting by presenting a Proclamation, Key to The City and Commemorative Poem from Joanne Shamp to beloved community volunteer Ceel Spuhler for her 90th Birthday on August 25. Ceel said, “To receive the Key to this Town that I love so much means so much to me, so I thank you heartily for your thoughtfulness!” Cereceda replied, “You mean a lot to us, Ceel, and to this Town!”
The Meeting adjourned at 1:08 p.m.; the next Management & Planning Session is Thursday, September 5; & the next Council Meeting is Monday, September 9, both at 9 a.m. Its First Fiscal Year 2019-20 Budget Hearing is Monday, September 9, at 5:01 p.m.
By Gary Mooney