A Lee County rezoning case on San Carlos Island is causing concern among Town of Fort Myers Beach officials. They plan on taking action at an upcoming hearing examination in Fort Myers.
Beach Town Council members are leery about projected traffic impacts and water quality issues that may result from the proposed San Carlos Island's Ebtide "Destination Resort Mixed Use" redevelopment, one that would allow 271 dwelling units, 450 hotel rooms, 75,000 square feet of convention center space, 15,000 square feet of general and medical office space, 85,000 square feet of commercial retail space as well as 608 units of dry storage and 242 wet slips.
Council members gave general consensus for Town staff to draft a resolution regarding those concerns and to present the document at their Nov. 5 meeting. From there, Town officials are anticipating putting the resolution on record at the Nov. 14 case before a Lee County Hearing Examiner, an administrative "judge" who will hear the case and send a recommendation forward to Lee County Commissioners.
The intersection at San Carlos Boulevard and Main Street is a concern for the proposed San Carlos Island’s Ebtide “Destination Resort Mixed Use” redevelopment.
The redevelopment case review process has passed the Lee County staff review and written recommendation process. The Nov. 14 procedure is the next step for the project's scope with anticipation for the case to move forward into a public hearing process in the future.
"When it directly affects Fort Myers Beach with the traffic and the Back Bay, it definitely is in our interest in what happens there," said Beach Mayor Bob Raymond.
"We want to see what is the plan to address those impacts," added Councilwoman Jo List.
In 2009, the Lee County Commission approved an amendment to the comprehensive land use to change the subject property's future land use designation from Urban Community, Suburban and Industrial Development to "Destination Resort Mixed Use Water-Dependent." Town records state this new category was "specifically created for this property."
"Town staff has been reviewing this proposal for the better part of the past couple of years," said Community Development Director Walter Fluegel. "The development program that they are proposing is consistent with the land use category that was created in 2009. We reviewed it on the technical merits of the application and asked where are there issues of extra jurisdictional impacts that would give concern to the Town and our residents."
Town Manager Terry Stewart stated the opportunity to address the project as a whole has passed. The project is zoned properly and staff needs to focus on the technical aspects. He recommended challenging it from a traffic perspective."
"We work cooperatively together with Lee County any time we have a project development that is going on in our town and visa versa for Lee County in an area that nearly abuts us," said Town Manager Terry Stewart. "We exchange our points of view on how that particular project may impact either the county or the town. We've been offered the opportunity to present any comments that the town may have regarding the proposed project."
Ebtide's project position states "far fewer trips" will be added to the roadway network due to existing uses on property that currently generates traffic that will be removed once site is redeveloped as well as an unknown reduced traffic impact due to water taxi services, trolley services and a bus service provided between the site and Southwest Florida International Airport.
Town officials obtained the services of a traffic consultant for review of the applicant's traffic impact study. During his presentation, Bob Mitchell of Weston & Sampson stated San Carlos Boulevard had an estimated service rating of "F" in 2010 and would receive an "F-minus" based on his company's review.
"The development will add additional trips for left-turning vehicles to San Carlos Boulevard from Main Street and will add to the already exasperated road conditions that receives an "F" on the southbound San Carlos Boulevard," said Mitchell.
His analysis estimated an additional number of left-turning trips from both roadways at AM peak hours (7 to 9 a.m.) at an additional 53 vehicles and PM peak hours (4 to 6 p.m.) at an additional 60 vehicles.
Recommendations include having the redevelopment applicant provide an estimation of anticipated number of vehicle trips removed from the peak hour traffic flow due to its proposed traffic mitigations and to re-evaluate the level of service on San Carlos Boulevard with new volumes and percent splits to give a truer picture of the results of mitigation measures.
Town officials added that a San Carlos Boulevard traffic impact -one that is already causing concern during "season"- would definitely add to the big problem.
"It's a shame to see such an intensity and people taking a position that this will have minimal impact," said Councilman Joe Kosinski.
Mayor Bob Raymond pressed staff and fellow Council members to take an official position regarding the redevelopment case. The traffic concern as well as adding a good amount of wet slips to the Back Bay area has him concerned.
"How this affects our traffic and our Back Bay affects us, and I think we should be directly involved in all of this stuff," said Raymond. "We also have to accommodate for the convention center and all those hotel rooms. I am very worried about what happens to the quality of our Back Bay."