Our Town has proudly declared itself “funky” for years, distilling our unique Island vibe into that one descriptive word on numerous occasions. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone, elected official or private citizen, who would disagree that “funky” is a worthy goal for our Island community. Nobody wants us to be like anywhere else, especially Miami, Fort Lauderdale or (horrors!) Naples.
Those who prefer the ordered, urban experience self-select to areas that offer that. Fort Myers Beach does not, or at least hasn’t so far.
We’ve all seen it. Some newcomers can be a little hesitant to embrace our full-out, everybody’s welcome, laid-back Island lifestyle. It’s different than most other places new Islanders have lived before. The dress clothes disappear into the back of the closet or into the Kiwanis Thrift Store donation bin. Next to go are socks. Wearing them seems so confining. Long pants? fuhgeddaboudit. Soon new Islanders find themselves on a bar stool laughing at a joke told by the guy who kinda looks like he needs an extra $5 for dinner, except he’s really a retired CEO who used to run a Fortune 500 company. So, save your generosity and share it with the bartender instead. The funny thing is, here, nobody really cares if you’re a Fortune 500 refugee or someone who delivered mail for 30 years or a retired cop or firefighter. You’re an Islander and that’s all that matters.
Occasionally we hear that our Island is turning into one of those “urban” horrors, usually uttered in reference to the large homes being built recently.
But it’s not our architecture that puts our Island’s unique, funky atmosphere at risk. It’s our rules. This Town is up to its neck in rules.
We’re not anarchists by any stretch. We recognize that the Town of Fort Myers Beach has the duty to establish rules for the safety and well-being of our community.
But there’s a line somewhere between rules for the community’s safety and well-being and rules for the sake of rules and control. For a Town that sees itself as a funky little beach town, our Town’s rules are bringing it perilously close to “control freak” status, which is a long, long way from funky.
We regulate signs, bicycles, rentals, parking, newsracks, beach vendors, special events and street performers, to name but a few. Since 2017, our Town has gone from complaint-driven code enforcement to proactive code enforcement, with multiple Town employees looking for violations.
Next up: regulating murals. Our murals are a part of what makes us unique. Recently Council discussed requiring murals to reflect the Town’s new branding, prohibiting murals in residential areas and requiring town approval, (i.e. application and a fee). To pay an artist to draw something on the outside of your private property. Council sent the subject to the LPA. We urge residents concerned about over-regulation to speak up when the mural topic lands on an agenda and let our Town know that before we head in the direction of Town-approved exterior colors for our homes.
We suspect that the creep of over-regulation has been tolerated because each new rule affects a limited group. But we are approaching critical mass on new rules here.
Save our “funky” Town!