To the editor:
Having re-read Hank Zuba's "Open letter to County Commissioner Ray Judah," published in the Beach Observer on Feb. 1, we question the practicality of what is suggested.
While we applaud Mr. Zuba's urging of our Town Council to cooperate with Lee County, we cannot see where the room can be found to develop the site and improve Estero Boulevard.
We remember when Joerg Wiebe, the owner of the former Seafarers' Mall (now demolished) gained approval to tear down the existing buildings and built instead a hotel, shops and restaurants and provided some parking. At that time the land was privately owned and there was no question that it would be used for road improvements. Even so, it was a small, congested site and the redevelopment plans were never carried out, perhaps because of practical problems of fitting everything in. Then came the economic collapse. Mr. Wiebe sold the site and the new owners could not build and the bank took over the land.
Hurricane Charlie badly damaged motels, which stood on the present Crescent Beach. So forces of nature and the economic climate combined to provide a unique opportunity to bring this key site into public ownership. The site was bought by Lee County with the help of the TDC and public funds (collected from tax payers). Also, funds were already set aside for the re-design of Estero Boulevard.
This provides us with the unique opportunity to really improve the traffic flow by re-routing Estero Boulevard and separating pedestrians from traffic and creating an attractive gateway to our island.
That must be the priority for this publicly owned piece of land. Other development must be secondary to this purpose. The desire for improved traffic flow was clearly expressed during all public consultation workshops that we have attended. The taxpayers have spoken and their wishes must be heeded!
Some people dream of also acquiring Helmerich Plaza and adding another span to the bridge. However, we doubt that the money and the will exist to achieve this. Therefore, we must be practical and do what can be done. Traffic engineers should draw up imaginative plans to make the best use of the existing space to further traffic flow and separate pedestrians from traffic. Off-island parking and an improved trolley service will encourage day-visitors to leave their cars on the mainland.
Michael and Gertraud Short
Fort Myers Beach