While You Were Gone

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Season has arrived on Fort Myers Beach, with traffic and wait times and happy faces and what seems like a thousand walkers & runners each morning along the new section of Estero Blvd. Welcome Back!

With season comes the question, “What happened after we left?” Here’s a condensed review of top news stories since last spring, with a little bit of commentary.

Margaritaville

Still on hold. The lawsuits filed by Christine Patton with the backing of Lani Kai owner Bob Conidaris in August 2018 continue to work their way through the courts. The civil lawsuit was dropped in June 2019, but the Request for a Writ of Certiorari limps along. In September 2019, it was denied by the local court, then they appealed to the Florida Second District Court of Appeals. The case continues to drag on. So now we wait some more. Some tenants in the proposed resort area have moved to new quarters, others are awaiting word on a demolition plan. In brighter news, the off-island portion of the project, Beaches Gateway Village, which will include a Homewood Suites Hotel and large parking lot for overflow parking at the NE corner of Pine Ridge and San Carlos Blvd, behind 7-11, has been approved by Lee County.

Water Quality

So far, so good. 2019 was not a repeat of the disastrous 2018 summer of Red Tide and Blue Green Algae. Given the most credit for that improvement was the “operational flexibility” of the US Army Corps of Engineers, which they used to draw down Lake Okeechobee in the spring of 2019, so they were not forced to release algae-laden water when the summer rains arrived at peak algae season. It worked, though they are not following that plan this year, leading Stuart, Florida to consider a lawsuit against them. We had a fairly normal Red Tide year with some spotty areas of medium concentration, but nothing like summer 2018.

Estero Blvd. Construction

Progress there also. The new road is complete to Publix. The first two miles of the six-mile project is done and the first bike lanes are in place. The entire road from Publix to the Big Carlos Pass Bridge is now a construction zone, with water line, sewer, stormwater drainage, or roadwork being done. Progress in these sections is expected to come faster than previous sections and completion is still expected by the end of 2021, less than two years from now.

Town Politics

With an election for three Town Council seats on the March 17 ballot, there’s plenty of town politics in the air. There are seven candidates for those seats. The town is also embroiled in a battle over a dune walkover on the south end near the Little Estero Critical Wildlife Area, with a decision on that at Monday’s Council meeting. Plenty about that in today’s opinion pages.

The Rest

Hurricane Dorian missed us. Record Turtle Nesting Season. Roar Offshore brought powerboat racing back to the beach, though the stats touted by promoters have raised a few eyebrows. Fire Dept is buying the Topps property to replace Station 31. Efforts to keep Water Quality front and center for politicians continues. Stay tuned, there’s always more to come on FMB.