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COP expansion questioned

September 12, 2012
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

To the editor:

Citizens of Fort Myers Beach: Do not be fooled by what Mayor Larry Kiker and the rest of Town Council has done to our rights. The amendment they passed is not about "booze on the beach." They took our rights away as citizens of this island. They handed our rights to a few staff members who don't live here and whose families will not be affected by any changes that may come.

Previous to this change, businesses would apply for a use, those of us affected would be notified by mail what the request was and that we could go to a public hearing and voice our opinion. Often times this lead to businesses meeting with residents to work out agreeable terms for all involved. Not anymore! Mayor Kiker and Council rejected the Local Planning Agency's Resolution #2009-24 to restrict further expansion of alcohol on the environmentally critical beach. They ignored a $14,000 consultant study that concluded COP is not a permitted use. They ignored LPA Chair Joanne Shamp's extensive analysis of the comp plan and why expansion of COP is not consistent. They ignored past mayors and councilmen. They ignored the majority of public opposition at the hearings. They ignored their attorney's recommendation at the April 16, 2012 hearing to have two more Pubic hearings. They even ignored the input from the COP Task Force they put together.

There is nothing okay about this. It is shameful. On top of our rights as citizens, this amendment will give an unfair advantage to the selected bars on the beach over other businesses in our town. Mayor Kiker and council, by passing this amendment, are allowing selected businesses to expand their commercial use with no impact fees, no extra restrooms, no additional parking, etc.. There are a lot of us who are property owners, and we are held to regulations on our properties that we own and pay taxes on. So property rights are not the issue here.

After town staff signs off on application for COP expansion, the businesses will still individually need to get permits from DEP and Army Corps and Florida Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms. Mayor Kiker and Council may think its okay to take our rights away, but they can't trump the State and the Feds. Mayor Kiker and Councilwoman List have said that it is the job of the Sheriff's office to enforce this new amendment; the Sheriff's office budget was just cut. The financial burden of this amendment to pay for more enforcement will fall on us, the citizens. There are so many things wrong with his entire amendment and the procedure in which it was conducted by Mayor Kiker and Council, but there isn't enough room to write about it in the paper.

As people now come to our island to stick their feet in the sand and have a drink, wiggle your toes, you might find Mayor Kiker and our Council ... that seems to be where there heads are!

Larry Kiker wants to be County commissioner, but how are we to trust him with a county when he refuses to implement the desired policies of a small town. We need to hear what his opponent, Charlie Whitehead, has to say.

Tracey Gore

Fort Myers Beach



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