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Open letter to County Commissioner Ray Judah

February 1, 2012
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

To the editor:

Dear Sir: Thank you for your participation and thoughts at the recent Town Council/County Board meeting.

At times, the relationship between our town and the county rivals family feuds, with changing roles for the position of crazy in-law. This time it was more of a rational family get-together.

If we agree that the ultimate goal of both parties is that the Town acquires Seafarer's property from the County and uses this major opportunity to help our traffic congestion and pedestrian crossing while also providing a boost to the downtown, please consider our working together towards that end.

Installing what is called a temporary grade-level parking lot does not help us move forward.

First, it will complicate, and add to the pedestrian crossover problem. In addition, parking lots tend to become permanent additions, difficult to change, modify or eliminate.

If, as you stated, the parking lot proposal is for the purpose of generating revenue for a potential Town purchase from the County, there may be better solutions.

Since we (the county and town) both pick the same taxpayer pocket, why not work together to provide a financing vehicle and pricing policy that can accommodate both parties. We are not competitors trying for the best price or terms but partners who can indeed "make this deal."

The town might consider revenue sources other than parking fees to make up their part of the plan. These might include examining the tax increment financing (TIF) district tool that was used to redevelop Old San Carlos. This instrument allowed the town to finance the improvements thru the recapture of taxes paid by new and improved business and real estate ventures. More property on the tax rolls means more revenue. Perhaps this TIF is still available to use for the purpose of Seafarers.

Traffic congestion has been addressed in other places using three common tools: road improvement, mass transit and congestion pricing (tolls). The most effective solution was tolls, a point we should remember in our planning.

The site itself deserves better treatment than a surface lot. It is one of the few locations able to support a mixed-use development including ground floor retail, a parking structure connected by Matanzas Bridge to Times Square, the beach and the pier. All of us share a respect for the view and height issues, which require us to balance with the economics of site value.

Seafarers give us the chance to address downtown pedestrian crossover, traffic movement in and thru our beautiful community and yes, even in part, parking. The joint session gave us an opening to continue planning for a vibrant reuse of this key area.

I propose this at the risk of being the crazy-in-law in the family.

Hank Zuba

Fort Myers Beach



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