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Our residents need fairness

February 22, 2012
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

To the editor:

For more than a year, our Town Council has been extraordinarily dedicated to "fairness" for 16 bars and businesses that sell alcohol on the beach side of Estero Boulevard. However, the 6,900 residents of our community need "fairness" too!

As it stands, Council is considering allowing 16 current businesses to expand their alcohol sales by an area equaling 17.9 football fields. Yes, almost 18 football fields of new alcohol sales areas!! More new businesses are sure to go after this new bonanza!

However, the Town simply must consider fairness for our community's 6,900 residents, not just the currently favored group of 16 business owners.

Fairness requires consideration of the following group of 16 proposal impact areas which will affect virtually all 6,900 community residents in some way.

n Traffic increases: Opening new alcohol selling area equivalent to 18 football fields area of alcohol can only make our traffic situation more disastrous. Fort Myers Beach becomes a vastly bigger magnet for spring breakers. Ditto for off-island residents and guests. Traffic gets more insane. Is that fair to residents?

n Control of disorderly conduct: Capt. Matt Powell does an admirable job of controlling the conduct of those liberated from the cold to our beaches. With the same number of deputies, there is simply no way that Capt. Powell can control crowds flocking to vastly expanded drinking areas. How does Council cope with this? Either beach conduct deteriorates or someone pays for more deputies. Is that fair to residents?

n Environmental: Trash on our beaches will go up, spreading to adjacent areas. How are turtle protection actions to be implemented? The sand compaction in the serving areas helps nothing! Is this fair to residents?

n Noise abatement: Our Town struggles with enforcing our noise abatement regulations that we have on the books. Far bigger crowds of fun-seekers will look for hard rock entertainment provided by bars. This sound carries far! Is this fair to residents.?

n Taxes: Town services will increase with the vast new areas opening and this sure will follow future expansions of more new bars. There will be code enforcement issues and irate residents' complaints about everything from noise, trash, etc. Who pays for more deputies? Are more taxes fair to residents?

n Priorities: This Town Council has prided itself on trying to set priorities for the Town. That raises the question of why is it more important to be "fair" to the group of 16 owners versus the 6,900 residents who approved fixing the water system 5 years ago.

Town staff has pulled out all stops in the last year, amassing 3,000 pages of work to be "fair" to the group of 16 owners. When the Town's advisory committee (LPA) opposed the group of 16 proposal based on the LPA's interpretation of the Town's Comprehensive Plan and the Land Development Code (its area of expertise), Council replaced two qualified LPA members to secure a 4 to 2 reversal for the group of 16 proposal. Highly aggressive!

In the last 36 months, the Town has spent more than $2 million by Town record to fix water main breaks, $55,000 per month. Yet in 5-plus years, Council has not found a way to put a shovel in the ground to start a resident approval to stop the horrendous costs to our residents. Certainly not aggressive! Is this fair to residents?

To be absolutely fair to the residents, the proposed 18 football field size area of new alcohol benefiting only the group of 16 owners should be put to a referendum of the voting residents -as was done on fixing Town's water system and more recently the $7 million Town Hall proposal.

Let the 6,900 residents decide what's fair to the residents. And, quite possibly, Council may become reinvigorated to putting in a new water system massively approved by voters 5 years ago.!

Frank Schilling

Fort Myers Beach



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