Town Council Work Session
The Fort Myers Beach Town Council held its first meeting with Jim Steele seated as Interim Manager Monday morning. Prior to the meeting, Council member and former mayor Anita Cereceda introduced Steele to several residents and business owners attending the meeting. Vice-Mayor Summer Stockton had asked to attend the meeting via Skype, but a connection could not be completed.
The meeting began with Public Comment and several residents spoke.
Ed Scott said that he had heard comments about the Town’s liability regarding the termination of former Town Manger Don Stilwell last Friday. He said that it was his understanding that the Town’s maximum liability is $200,000. He mentioned that when Terry Stewart was let go, he was paid about $300,000 and Orlandini received $250,000 (in the elevated pool lawsuit.)
“It’s chump change and should not have anything to do with whether we go ahead with this or not.”
Kathy Light and Sam Lurie both members of the Anchorage Advisory Committee (AAC) asked to be included in the mooring field discussion.
Timothy Wessel of Hercules St., spoke about the benefits of having a dock on Hercules.
Morey Nakaya of Coconut Dr. told council that he hoped they were ready today to make a decision on placing a dock at Coconut.
Judy Haataja urged council to keep residents in mind when they create a bay access policy, adding that she and her neighbors have taken care of the bay access on their street without help from the Town.
Joe Stockton asked council to add a Public Comment period at the end of the Work Session agenda.
Doug Speirn-Smith of Matanzas Inn Resort, told council he was present to help field mooring field questions.
Scott Baker Director of Public Works introduced the Bay Access Improvement item, asking council for direction.
“Is this something the council wants staff to look into? If so, what areas? Which ones are priorities? And lastly, how do we get there?”
Council member Rexann Hosafros indicated that the accesses should be treated on a case-by-case basis as some are in residential neighborhoods and some near businesses.
Cereceda agreed, adding that the Town already has policies on bay and beach accesses in the Comprehensive Plan.
“Our Comp Plan doesn’t say ‘may’; it says ‘shall’ ensure that appropriate public access is restored.”
Cereceda explained that the policy states that ‘we shall create public access’ and combining the Comp Plan with the Town’s future land use categories can guide policy on bay accesses.
Council member Tracey Gore said that each street should decide, but Cereceda disagreed. She pointed out that everyone on those streets will someday be gone and the purpose of the future land use map is to guide the Town long after current residents are gone.
“Our charge by virtue of the Comp Plan is to create Public Access,” Cereceda said. “It’s not just for current residents, it’s for future residents.”
Council consensus was reached to direct staff to work on five bay access points and bring back suggestions: Coconut, Hercules, Amberjack, Delmar and Fountain Park (Old San Carlos).
Baker said that he would set up weekly sessions at Town Hall to gather resident input on these five areas.
Principal Planner Matt Noble explained that the LDC currently provides for two kinds of parking lots, single purpose and shared. Single purpose lots serve individual businesses, multi-family buildings, mixed use and multiple occupancy buildings. Shared lots are open to the public, generally for a fee.
The issue of surplus parking is mentioned in the code section 34-2011. “Surplus spaces in some single purpose parking lots may be rented to the general public during peak periods, as provided in subsection 34-2019(a).’ That section allows parking spaces in lots with 10 or more spaces to be rented during peak periods.
Unfortunately the code does not define ‘surplus’ or ‘peak periods.’ Noble suggested than an LDC amendment could define these terms and specify how a property owner obtains the right to rent surplus spaces during peak periods.
Kara Stewart, Program Developer for the Community Development Department, explained that the issue came up after last season when the town got a lot of “pushback” due to the number of paid parking lots that sprang up. When she investigated the topic in the LDC, she found it didn’t provide clear answers as to when peak season was and how many spaces might be deemed “surplus.”
Gore expressed concern that an amendment would change the code.
“I want to make sure that you’re not changing the code, you’re just tightening. You’ll keep our conservative code conservative.”
Boback asked staff to look at how parking lots are used when a business is closed. Noble indicated that staff would begin working on an amendment that would go to LPA and council.
Senior Planner Megan Will requested council input on special event regulations and presented a draft of staff’s initial revisions of LDC Chapter 22, explaining that the primary objective was to remove inconsistencies and coordinate special events and temporary use permits.
“We wanted to streamline the approval process for annual and recurring events, simplify the review process and put the responsibility for a complete application on the applicant not staff,” Will said.
The initial draft includes a deadline of 45 days before the event if council action is required and 15 days if no council action needed. Cereceda asked that consideration be given to special events planned with less than 15 days notice and Will said they could add a provision for Town Manager approval.
The full 11-page draft can be found in the agenda packet for the June 6, 2016 work session meeting on the Town’s website, www.fortmyersbeachfl.gov.
When Hosafros suggested that the draft was preliminary only and reminded council that a previous council had requested that staff streamline the special events regulations, Gore pointed out that she is on council now and likes the regulations the way they are now.
“I like for the public to have as much information as possible,” Gore said. “If a bar that normally has 30 people there, was going to have an event with 100 people, the people in the neighborhood have a right to know.”
Boback asked whether the regulations include traffic control. Will explained that the applicant coordinates traffic control with the sheriff’s office, if needed. Boback said he wanted town input.
Budget: Outside Special Events
Director of Administrative Services Maureen Rischitelli introduced the first of four agenda items related to next year’s fiscal budget – Town support of outside special events, saying that there are a total of $54,500 worth of requests for support of outside special events, including Beach Kids Foundation ($20,000), Friends of the Arts ($25,000), Charlotte Harbor ($5,000), Horizon Foundation ($2,500) and Keep Lee County Beautiful ($2,000).
Hosafros suggested that the requests seemed to dovetail with the Lee County TDC Arts & Attractions Grant and suggested that the groups pursue that grant. Gore agreed and Cereceda said that she was not going to support Town funding for any outside special events this year. Gore and Hosafros indicated that they were leaning that direction.
Budget: Farmer’s Market
Rischitelli provided a brief overview of the Town’s Farmer’s Market held November-April. This year the location was moved from under Matanzas Bridge to Bay Oaks with a dramatic decrease in vendors and usage. With two other markets offered on the island during season, council members agreed with staff recommendations that the market be discontinued as a Town sponsored activity.
Budget: Mooring Field
The Town operates the Mooring Field and Dinghy Dock with one employee who operates the pump out vessel and monitors field maintenance. The Town contracts with Matanzas Inn who provides rent collection and shore side amenities for 65% of rental fees. Their contract expires in November with one or two year options.
Rischitelli asked council to weigh in on whether the Town should bid out services again, limit services to one location or consider use of an online reservation system.
Kathy Light, Chair of the Anchorage Advisory Committee, pointed out that there were a few inconsistencies in the budget. One of them is the inclusion of the Lee County Sheriff’s water patrol costs. She said the field takes no more than 10% of the deputy’s time. For some reason, it was put in the mooring field budget. She was not in favor of an online reservation system and reminded council that would take only the reservations, not any of the other shore side services. She complimented Matanzas Inn on their provision of showers, laundry, water and restrooms 7 days a week. She pointed out that Matanzas also moors the pump out boat at no cost. She closed by saying she hoped that the council would utilize the cruising and boating expertise that the AAC has.
Sam Lurie said that the use of the Dockwa reservation system on top of Matanzas Inn services might be a good idea, but it is not a replacement for Matanzas Inn shore side services.
Cereceda asked if mooring field rates were fair. Light said they were on the low side based on her cursory review. She thought a more in depth review was needed and AAC needs do that.
Doug Speirn-Smith told council that while he hasn’t had time to look at the Dockwa reservation system, anytime you can simplify paperwork and have a computer track info, it’s a useful exchange. He said he was open to discussion on the contract.
Water quality is a critical issue for Cereceda and she wanted to find a way to get more back bay boats to use the pump out boat. Other options utilized now are pulling into a marina and emptying the holding tank or emptying it directly into the back bay, which is illegal, but difficult to catch.
Scott Baker told the council that a previous council had approved the purchase of a new pump out boat, which with government grants, would cost the town only $910.
Budget: Framework for 2016-17
Rischitelli told council that she used a millage rate of 0.800 as the basis for the preliminary 2016-17 budget provided in the agenda packet for Monday’s work session. The budget will be discussed at length during a special meeting of Town Council on Monday, June 13 at 10am. The estimated taxable values for the Town of Fort Myers Beach as determined by the Lee Property Appraiser are $3,076,325; the final values will be released by July 1, 2016.
Hosafros emphasized that while property values have gone up, that does not mean a windfall for the town. If the values remain as estimated and the millage rate remains at 0.800, the town will collect approximately $154,628 more than the current year in taxes.
“This is not even as much as FPL is deducting each year for the repayment of their error,” said Hosafros. Rischitelli confirmed that FPL is deducting $12,700 from every payment they make to the town and will continue until the full $450,000 is paid.
Boback added that the town might also be out $175,000 due to a loss of state revenue sharing as a result of an error in a Charter amendment passed in March. He has asked for a report on the status of that issue.
Rischitelli noted that the town has received word that the interest rate on the DEP revolving fund loan has been lowered to 0.92%. Boback said that he would sign the documents for the loan before leaving the building.