Crystal Ball & Tea Leaves!
In last week’s edition of The Island Sand Paper, to wrap up 2016, I and several colleagues looked back on the most significant stories and photographs of Fort Myers Beach in the past 12 months, as well as the Top Ten historical events in the island’s long history.
But looking back is Child’s Play! Now for the real hard part and true challenge – gazing ahead to predict the Top Ten Fort Myers Beach developments for 2017. I’ve got my crystal ball and tea leaves so here we go!
10: The Long & Winding Road: The reFRESH Estero Boulevard Construction Projects continue throughout the entire year. O.K., predicting this seems like I am beginning by giving myself a gimme – or did I? About once-a-month or so now, Town Council must make a financial decision to either continue some aspect of the project, like over stormwater or outfalls, or delay the whole thing for up to six months or longer. Despite these temptations and understandable concerns, reFRESH Estero Boulevard moves forward without interruption.
9: Town Turnover Topsy Turvy: Despite hiring in early 2017 a new Town Manager, new Attorney, new Master Planner, and new Bay Oaks Recreation Center Director, turnover at Town Hall continues – if we can find anyone left with any seniority!
8: Z for Zika: It’s a close call for Fort Myers Beach, as Lee County identifies its first locally homegrown cases of the Zika Virus in the Summer; pregnant women and concerned families all over the region hold their breath until those babies are born.
7: Mounds, Bays & Oaks: Overcoming the continued turnover in senior town staff and uncertain support from an uncertain Council, both before and after the March election, the Mound House with its bright energetic director, and the Bay Oaks Recreation Center, behind a smart and innovative new director, continue to rally the community, further improving the quality of life on Fort Myers Beach.
6: Close Calls & Turtle Time: Despite two major hurricanes within striking distance, Fort Myers Beach escapes the 2017 season relatively unscathed, with Turtle Time reporting another record year for nests on the beach!
5: Two Outta Three Ain’t Bad: While Town Council can certainly be delightfully dysfunctional and there is an element of the local electorate already threatening to drain our island’s political swamp, 2 of the 3 current Town Council members eligible for re-election are victorious in March’s election. This guarantees that Council meetings continue to remain Must-See TV events, with many sessions lasting as long as hostage crises rather than public forums.
4: Bing Bang Boom: Although they argue it in the Spring, then again in the Fall, Town Council dividedly and reluctantly funds the public safety portions of community celebrations that include fireworks on The 4th of July and New Year Eve, because most of its members really do not want their fellow citizens to remember them as the Ebenezer Scrooges in the annals of Fort Myers Beach history!
3: Water Water Everywhere: Red tide, Lake O releases, protesters on the Matanzas Pass Bridge, brown water running down the Caloosahatchee River straight into the Gulf of Mexico, water quality testing, discussion, possible solutions and endless debate! Water quality continues to be a prime issue for our beach community, and will sadly only climb lists like this in future years.
2: TSR DOA: For the second time in two years, but officially this time, the Town turns away the Times Square Resort proposal by Tom Torgerson, though it and Lee County finally end their childish banter of “You Take It – I Don’t Want It” to finally give the concept a public hearing. TT realizes Two Strikes Means You’re Out around here and walks away, leaving the Downtown to decay in squalor for another decade, as developers avoid the unfriendly island in favor of any other Florida community. In 2027, with Times Square looking as run down and haggard as Downtown, leaders finally become desperate for redevelopment, but does anyone care?
1: Stormy Water: After continuing to argue about it for most of the year, Council finally pulls the proverbial new Stormwater System plug and refers the proposal to a community referendum to let the voters decide this crucial issue in 2018. Tune in a year from now for the 2018 projections to find out the result at the vote, but suffice it to say, it becomes the nastiest local election since the successful incorporation vote of 1995.
If any readers would like to share their 2017 predictions, the Sand Paper invites them to send them to Info@FortMyersBeach.news.