To the editor:
Turtle nesting season has begun. Rigorous state regulations protect these threatened and endangered animals.
COP expansion on the beach will make the situation worse for nesting turtles. The proposed COP ordinance would extend alcohol sales in front of Wicked Wings about 32 feet onto the sand. The COP taskforce recommendation would extend out 25 feet. With tables taking up this new space for alcohol sales and then surrounded by ropes and posts, the stacked chairs and jet skis will extend even farther out on the beach. The COP ordinance will not stop the Lani Kai from serving alcoholic drinks all the way to the water's edge. Nothing has been gained except to expand business onto the environmentally sensitive sandy beach. It is not good news for turtle nesting. It is not consistent with the intended purpose of our Environmentally Critical Zoning District.
The Environmentally Critical Zone, as stated in the Town's Land Development Code, is intended to protect the natural state of our beaches. Permitted uses include boating, fishing, nature studies, outdoor education, appropriate recreation activities, and wildlife management. Alcohol sales, service and consumption (COP) are not now and never have been permitted by the LDC in the EC zoning district. Adding COP expansion as a permitted use in the EC Zoning District is a very big deal. Businesses that have previously issued COP permits in the EC Zone must be regulated. Expansion of the sale of alcoholic beverages as a permitted use on our sandy beaches should not be allowed. Do not confuse this issue with the already illegal alcohol consumption that occurs on our public beaches. That is being managed by enforcement of current ordinances.
The COP ordinance does nothing positive and does much negative for the environmentally sensitive beach area. There is no restriction on the use of plastic straws. Biodegradable cups are not required. Vegetation is optional. Our beach nourishment requires addition of vegetation. New construction adjacent to the EC Zone, such as DiamondHead and Pink Shell resorts, requires vegetation to be added. Vegetation not only helps stabilize the beach, it also provides a desirable location for nesting turtles. A vegetation barrier protects turtles from becoming entangled in objects, such as picnic tables, bollards, beach chairs and jet skis. And yet, vegetation is optional in the proposed ordinance. The obvious intent of the COP ordinance is to help businesses expand onto our sandy beaches, not to support the intent of the Environmentally Critical beach zone. There needs to be regulation of alcohol sales on the beach, but not expansion.
Every effort should be made to protect and preserve our beaches. With the importance of this LDC change to our sensitive environment and the concerns expressed by many citizens, the voters should be given the opportunity to decide whether alcohol sales should be a permitted use in our Environmentally Critical Zone. There would be no cost to the Town if a referendum were held during the next regularly scheduled election in March 2013. Town Council please let the residents of Fort Myers Beach decide this important issue.
Fort Myers Beach