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Free money on Fort Myers Beach (also known as COP)

March 21, 2012
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

To the editor:

It may seem harmless enough to let a few beachfront bars and restaurants expand alcohol sales all over the beachfront, but think about the consequences down the road. The obvious things that catch up later include little things like distorting our codes to make it happen. And, the bizarre streamlining for permitting and zoning that will allow these special few to make huge expansions without the cost of building structures or adding incidental things like bigger restrooms, parking, etc. Free money. (Isn't it funny that all the other businesses in town must comply with our codes, but town hall has figured a way to give these guys a free pass?)

These places already garner the most business, but with all the extra free space, now they can really clean up. More free money. And, at whose expense? Well, how about the other businesses? Like across the street ... or right next door? If they aren't among the chosen, how will they compete?

This thing started as a bid to make things fair and control alcohol. So, instead of regulating three, council's solution is to expand to 16. Yep, regulation by expansion. Right on the so-called environmentally sensitive, white sand beach itself. Apparently, they seem to think expansion for a select 16 will not create a precedent for even more proliferation, will somehow make regulation better, and make it fair.

How this is fair to all the other businesses in town is anyone's guess.

More importantly, this council is about to create a game-changing precedent. Once done, it is impossible to change. With this precedent, why couldn't any Beach business get a license and do the same? And, how could such commercial expansion be limited to alcohol? Previous Councils have recognized the dangers and have acted with fairness and restraint. And let's face it, a town that bends the rules to allow a huge expansion exclusively for sale of alcohol can only leave one wondering, "what kind of a family destination is this?"

Now, with this as the scenario, our town council wants to give select beachfront businesses a license to make millions, plus increase the value of their businesses immensely. Other businesses may very well suffer. Our town infrastructure will obviously be more burdened. And, you can bet taxes won't go down. Free money for a few, but a rotten deal for the often referred to "environmentally sensitive beach" ... and the rest of us.

You can bet the politicos will offer soothing words in advance, and try to convince you that further expansion won't happen. But remember, these are the same guys (and girls) who are trying to convince themselves, and you, that expansion from three to 17 stops proliferation.

Town Council would love to hear your comments on this subject, called COP, April 2 at 9 a.m. Or you can call 765-0202 before then and listen to the prompts to leave a message or talk to the council people.

Tom Merrill

Fort Myers Beach



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