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Seafarer’s property: a strategic development area

February 29, 2012
By FMB Councilman Alan Mandel , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

In the last year, the County, after purchasing parcels on both sides of Estero Boulevard in the Times Square Area, has developed Crescent Family Beach Park and demolished the Seafarer Building. The later parcel has been left barren.

The former Seafarer's property, if planned appropriately, may provide traffic mitigation; a development incorporating: restaurants, hotels, shops; pedestrian over passes above Estero Boulevard; and parking to the rear of the property.

At least three County Commissioners responded favorably at the joint BOCC/Town Council Meeting to the above concept. Commissioners Hall, Bigelow, and Manning encouraged the concept of using the land for its highest and best use. While Commissioner Judah offered the Town a potential sharing of parking revenue, asphalt on the existing County property for parking will not enable appropriate development of the site, and may only further hinder traffic flow on Estero Blvd.

Having obtained Council's approval, staff and I, with the Town Attorney, will pursue the creation of a tax increment district, as well as begin conversations with current property owners, and developers making periodic progress reports to Council.

A tax district may provide tax revenue to the Town to help pay for any public improvements on the property. Developers usually contribute to these costs as well.

In a tax district, the properties within the boundary, on the date the district is established, have their property value set at a base number. As development occurs, and property values increase, the municipality captures the increased tax dollars to be used to pay for the public improvements.

The beach already has such a tax district (CRA) in the Old San Carlos area. A municipality may have more than one tax district.

The property has historically been a focal point on the island and a center for tourists and residents.

Currently, the site is enclosed by a fence. The County has cleared the demolished area, but a year has elapsed since the County took ownership with no apparent progress regarding development. It is important that the Town and County work together on this project. Part of the Town's presentation to the County Commissioners was that we, the Town, have the time to focus on this project, and the site is critical to us for the ambiance and economy of the Island.

Conversations are needed immediately with all landowners in the area as well as the County and developers to provide a path forward on this development. Proper planning may result in a beneficial project not only for the Town, but all stakeholders involved.



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