I read with interest this morning the letter from Tom Torgerson dated July 7, 2016 to the Fort Myers Beach Council members and Town Manager regarding his thoughts on the future development of the Fort Myers Beach downtown area straddling Estero Boulevard and published by the Island Sand Paper this morning on its Facebook page (thank you!). Mr. Torgerson has worked hard to communicate openly with our Town government and community members at large, and this letter is yet another example of that open communication style.
I am writing this letter as an effort to urge our Council and Town Manager to take seriously the request of Mr. Torgerson: that is, for the Council to provide him an indication of their willingness to consider with seriousness any future development plans he submits. He makes this request knowing that no commitments can be made at this time. But after his firm spent many thousands of dollars developing the now-defunct Grand Resorts plan, he very reasonably asks our Town to give him some confidence that any new plan will be afforded due process and serious consideration by the Council.
The Town of Fort Myers Beach is facing great risks currently. The fouled waterways are driving away tourists; the road construction is putting small businesses out of business; and the commercial areas of the island are progressively becoming run-down, empty-shelled dead zones of commercial activity. I am a local attorney and business owner who lives on the island, and every day, when I drive over the sky bridge and proceed south on Estero Blvd. towards my home, I see the sad empty storefronts multiplying. One by one, our small businesses are giving up and going home. We need action from our Councilmembers. We need action now.
I urge our town council to draft a resolution, with haste and with unanimous approval by all five current councilmembers, that sends a clear signal to Mr. Torgerson and any other developer who is interested in investing precious dollars in our island – a message that we want their investment. Do not let this request of Mr. Torgerson go unanswered. He has been a responsible corporate citizen of our town, has endured undue criticism (unfortunately from some of our councilmembers), and yet is still showing up and asking for the opportunity to invest here. We need this investment; our island needs this investment, our business owners need this investment, and our residents need this investment. Our town is fading without it.
Pass a resolution or some appropriate instrument so that Torgerson may proceed with the confidence that his proposals will receive a fair hearing and an open mind from each and every councilmember. Anything less than such a resolution will prove to the citizens of this Town that our council is irresponsible and small-minded and NOT interested in the interests of all stakeholders. Its time to do the right thing!
For Our Beach!
Lisbeth A. Freeman
Fort Myers Beach