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COP needs referendum vote

May 9, 2012
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

To the editor:

The May 7th Town Council meeting was a sad day for the Town of Fort Myers Beach. Many people have requested that a referendum be held to determine whether the voters want to expand alcohol sale, service and consumption (COP) on our sandy beaches. Town Council rejected it. Many significant issues were raised during public comment at the April 16th hearing on alcohol expansion. The only issue Town Council is willing to discuss is how large a beach area will be allowed for expansion. They also agreed to make passing an alcohol ordinance their highest priority task. The Mayor stated that he wants it done by the end of June. What is the rush?

About 16 years ago the voters on Estero Island petitioned to hold a Referendum of Incorporation. That referendum passed because our elected County officials were not listening to what the voters on Estero Island wanted. It is sad to think our current elected officials are doing the same. Town of Fort Myers Beach voters cannot petition to force a referendum on alcohol expansion on our beaches. Only our elected officials can make that decision. Town Council is unwilling to put it on a ballot because they know it will lose. There is more interest in helping a handful of businesses. We need to appeal to Town Council to do the right thing. The alcohol expansion issue should be put on the March 2012 ballot.

Our Town Council does not get it. Zoning is not about creating a level playing field by allowing current businesses to expand alcohol sales on the beach. Shortly before the Town incorporated, the County permitted a 13-story hotel as well as eight high-rise condos to be built on Estero Island, despite the existing density and intensity problems causing serious traffic problems. The incorporation referendum allowed the voters to chose to control our Town's destiny. Thank goodness our previous Town Councils understood why the voters chose to incorporate. They put a height limit on new development. Can you imagine how our island would look if our first Town Council's felt a "level playing field" had to be provided to other developers? We are facing the same situation with alcohol expansion onto our greatest asset, our sandy beaches. Some businesses appear to have prior permits to sell alcohol on the beach. Appropriate regulation can prevent further alcohol expansion and make current permits non-conforming. Alcohol sales on the sandy beach would go away over time. Don't worry; there will be plenty of nice decks over looking the beach where you will be able to buy and consume a beverage. Tell your Council representatives to hold a referendum and let the voters decide whether the expansion of alcohol sale, service and consumption on the beach should be allowed.

Tom Babcock

Fort Myers Beach



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