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The unfair COP ordinance

March 28, 2012
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

To the editor:

Since 2008 Town Council has directed vast amounts of staff resources to resolve a so-called fairness issue involving about 16 businesses that sell alcohol on the Gulf side of Estero Blvd. Those selling alcohol on the bayside of Estero were ignored.

The COP ordinance solution, crafted by Town staff, guarantees harm and unintended consequences to Town's 6,900 residents and the disadvantaged businesses on the wrong side of Estero. The only question is how much and where.

Town staff has simply failed to address the issue of harm and consequences to residents and other businesses that will grow.

ALL beach areas considered by the ordinance are designated as environmentally critical. Incredibly, no environmental impact studies were made. Not fair!

We simply do not know how many hundreds or thousands of tables, chairs and people will spring up in this one-third conversion of the environmentally critical areas to alcohol sales. And, where are the restrictions preventing other types of businesses from wanting to do business on the opened-up beach areas. They can claim a fairness issue too.

Town's ordinance brings more people to our beach "field of dreams." Build it and they will come. Businesses do not spend expansion money without the clear expectations of increased sales. But more people mean more cars and more people stopping traffic as they cross the boulevard. Not fair to residents.

Music will be allowed in this one-third business-on-the-beach expansion. Not fair to residents already bombarded by sound.

We simply do not know the financial impact of the one-third conversion of beach to business. No impact studies have been made on the certain cost additions to Town. Nor have license fees been set. Is it fair to residents not to know their new tax situation? Town raises property tax rates and adds taxes to electric bills. Do they go up again? Not fair!

Safety concerns are another issue. Fire response times change, emergency medical response times change with more traffic and more people crossing the boulevard. What is the impact on the Sheriff maintaining the peace? No one knows. Not fair.

How much business will migrate from the east side of Estero to the favored 16 businesses on the Gulf side beaches. If the bayside businesses expand, they have to add parking. The favored 16 Gulf side businesses are not required to add parking. Not fair.

The one-third beach expansion areas require 10 feet wide dune vegetation planted outside their enclosed rope and post system. No raking can be done within 10 feet of the new dune vegetation. That guarantees dune expansion onto unwilling neighboring properties. Not fair!

Before passing this ordinance, Council needs to develop more understanding of the harms that they will create.

Town's first hearing on this issue is April 2 at 9 a.m.

Frank Schilling

Fort Myers Beach



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