A bi-annual joint session between the Town's governing body and its chief advisory committee on Wednesday, March 8, addressed several key issues facing Estero Island and its residents.
The Fort Myers Beach Town Council and Local Planning Agency discussed topics for policy on Town action issues, and direction was given to focus on certain agenda items.
LPA chairperson Joanne Shamp prepared the workshop's agenda by reviewing previous joint meeting discussions and the committee's own action lists regarding policies and procedures. She referenced stagnant items to either be addressed or discarded as well as stated urgent items from those previous sessions.
"What we are really looking for today is direction from Town Council on what policy issues you would like us to move forward with," she said.
One of the urgent topics alluded to involved a post-disaster recovery ordinance. Shamp pointed out that the Town's land development code language is not adjusted for re-development of the island. New regulation information presented by FEMA on March 15 may need to be included into the language.
"(FEMA) will deal primarily with the community rating system," said Community Development Director Walter Fluegel. "Our staff has been attending FEMA workshops on what those rules are going to be. There will be a six-month review, and there could be changes."
Council gave the LPA approval to stay on top of expected changes and work to finish the ordinance.
Both factions then centered on three topics involving Estero Boulevard: a) design; b) an interlocal agreement with county commissioners; c) and rights-of-way issues.
In the design discussion, the completed North Estero Boulevard project was used as a model for the future blueprint involving the rest of the Beach's main passageway. Council will address potential palm tree growth into electrical wires along North Estero Boulevard as an action item. The issue shouldn't be a problem for the upcoming project due to the burying of conduits underground.
Regarding crosswalk crossing etiquette, Councilman Alan Mandel mentioned a "point to safety" measure to assist drivers when there is confusion concerning people who actually want to cross the road or are just standing near the sign.
"In Canada, they put their hand out and point to the other side when they want to cross the street," he said. "Drivers are supposed to recognize that the person really wants to cross the street."
Council decided to put a program together with help from the Town's re-established traffic mitigation agency and Beach Elementary students.
LPA member Dan Andre would like to see crosswalks at each beach access and solar lighting for nighttime traversing. LPA member John Kakatsch thought the use of "stick figures" might also help with the education.
Regarding Seafarer's property, Mandel has begun a "Circle The Property" concept to draw attention to re-development plans and allow the Town to have "the ability to capture the increases in tax dollars in case development takes place, while Councilwoman Jo List reported beach school artwork is expected to be scattered on the perimeter fencing in the future.
Town attorney Marilyn Miller also reported that a Town comprehensive plan amendment for a County permit to construct an at-grade parking lot couldn't be determined until a development approval application is reviewed. County has yet to submit one.
"We know it will be a complete nightmare if they decide to do a surface parking lot in that location," said LPA vice chair Hank Zuba. "It's going to make crossing that boulevard and traffic a huge mess."
Mayor Larry Kiker asked LPA to send county commissioners a proclamation or letter to memorialize the late Carleton Ryffel (a former LPA member) at that site or across the street at Crescent Beach Family Park, an honor that Council members thought was agreed upon with a handshake but one that may not happen.
"They decided they are going to do their own deal now," he said. "I think that defending the right to honor Mr. Ryffel is our right."
In the BOCC ILA discussion, Council is trying to get county commissioners to agree on legal paperwork for simultaneously combining all work needed during the re-construction of Estero Boulevard in the near-future years. Officials met on that issue Monday and results would be brought forth soon.
The noise issue around the island caused by live entertainment with louder-than-normal decibel levels was another topic for discussion. Council has a workshop to review the existing noise ordinance -one that has been said to be in need of re-writing- on May 7.
Regarding the Beach's brand identity, the two groups discussed the need for a Town playground (future Council agenda item/ manager made plea for anyone who can donate piece of property for playground placement to call Town Hall); a capital campaign for placing a children's learning center at Matanzas Pass Preserve (project in initial stages); bringing back the Beach Film Festival and other Arts-related events (Council to have workshop on overall topic on June 4/ advisory committee to help work out details); Mound House issues (April 2 workshop planned by Town officials); structures that will be designated historic (Mound House is next in line).
A LeeTran reader board to promote Beach events and activities was also suggested.
"We are also working on the Vista signs where we think that our first locations will be at the Town fountain and the Beach Pier," said LPA member Jane Plummer, who chairs the Town's Historic Preservation Board. Town Planning Coordinator Josh Overmyer will act as liaison to that sub-committee.
The discussion turned to possible BP reimbursement compensation for the Town. Lee County Tourist Development Council has received $500,000 in compensation and has placed an additional $500,000 claim.
"Quite frankly, I don't see that the Town is in a position to go out and claim any kind of reimbursement because we have had no negative impact," said Town Manager Terry Stewart. "BP has tightened down their payments pretty significantly."
As part of its meeting packages, LPA will now include agenda management practices and the Council agenda management list.
"We have got to make the historic value of what happens in this town the highest priority," Kiker told all Council and LPA members. "We need to think the same way about the importance of the history of this town."