More than $1 million is being sought by the Town of Fort Myers Beach from County officials for support of various funding elements.
The Beach Town Council unanimously approved Town staff to prepare and submit six funding applications within a priority ranking lineup in the adjustable amount of $1,195,246 for the Lee County Tourist Development Council to consider. Each year the TDC makes recommendations to the Lee County Board of County Commissioners for their budgetary distribution of funds of tourist tax collection, better known as bed taxes.
In order of priority, the application requests involve funds for beach and shoreline operations and maintenance; capital improvements to bayside and beach accesses; coastal management plan study; purchase and installation of a portable restroom; and shade structures at Newton Beach Park and Mound House. The approval also authorizes Town staff to switch the second and third priorities as deemed appropriate after a meeting with TDC this week.
The bayside property and access at the end of Gulf Beach Road (behind Topps Supermarket) may see some sprucing up in the form of a park-like area, kayak launch and a possible dinghy dock.
Phase I of the coastal management plan study, which was paid for solely by Town efforts, has been completed and hopes are County will help with Phase II for the critical study of beach erosion and other problems associated with tides, currents and storms.
"The nature of this project will provide with all of the information about beach management, including or not re-nourishment is appropriate," said Town Manager Terry Stewart. "These are items TDC can fund but, over the past few years, the County has stepped away from funding them."
Phase II of the coastal management plan study was estimated to be roughly $134,000. The Town would provide approximately $45,000 of that amount after spending $21,000 for the first phase.
Regarding beach and shoreline maintenance, Town staff is requesting two replacement beach vehicles, the usual extra help for spring break cleanup, continued ADA requirements at beach accesses and other beach access improvements, and bay access developments at Delmar Street and Gulf Beach Road, Those developements include a park-like area, kayak launch and a possible dinghy dock at the bayside access behind Topps Supermarket.
A property owner is providing rights to an easement for the Town to locate a public restroom at Avenue C. The only TDC-funded allowable park aspects for Newton Park and Mound House include landscape maintenance, public restrooms, kayak launch, outdoor activities and things of that nature.
"The TDC has indicated a willingness to continue to fund this program for the Town once we have identified locations. So, we are bringing that to them," said Public Works Director Cathie Lewis. "The funding for capital projects is definitely all very limited these days. They pick or choose the elements that are important to the tourism industry."
TDC funds have been received by the Town for a number of years. The amount and for what programs are the yearly question marks. Matching funds may help the cause, says Lewis.
"I totally agree with your approach that you have to show a contribution," said Acting Mayor Alan Mandel about coastal management study. "It is critical to see what research techniques might be available. Based on what I saw at a beach and shoreline conference in Jacksonville, coastal engineering companies are doing state-of-the-art research to determine what the dynamics are along the shoreline, so that we can recommend the appropriate fixes."
Retailers angry about display citations
During public comment, Beach retail business owners spoke in opposition to being recently cited for having "inappropriate" display.
Owners of Salty Dog Gallery & Gifts and Sea Gypsy Inn, both Estero Boulevard businesses, along with other businesses were cited by Town code enforcement on Saturday, Feb. 16. The owners believe Fort Myers Beach should institute a "Keep It Funky" business approach in advertising to try to lure people into their respective stores. Comments such as "too many abandoned storefronts," "businesses need to jump through hoops to succeed" and their businesses are not "interfering with pedestrians on sidewalks or traffic" were heard.
Council members requested a round table discussion with small businesses and Town officials.
"I have received numerous phone calls in the past 24 hours, and people stop me when I am walking down the street to tell me they have received a 'visit'," said Councilwoman Jo List.
"I personally don't find the outdoor displays offensive," said Councilman Dan Andre.
Town Attorney Marilyn Miller said Land Development Code Chapter 34-678 states the regulation for business outdoor display.
"It is limited so that you do not end up with a bizarre-type of atmosphere," she said. Miller said that no single business could have more than two outdoor displays of merchandise. The code currently states the types of outdoor displays are limited to the following: vending carts can have no more than two wheels; they can only be left outside when the business is closed if they can be secured; clothing racks are limited to one support rod no more than six feet long; one uniquely designed clothing rack for a specific product; free standing mannequins, tables or free shelves limited to 2' by 8' area or 4' by 4' area not more than three feet in height; free standing product displays limited to 4' by 8' foot product area with no more than seven individual products or table; and product must be sold only on private property between their store and street right-of-way on a raised porch or patio for liability reasons.
Permits are also needed for outdoor sales and displays. That fee is $200 and must be renewed on an annual basis. Council can lessen the regulations by amending the code.
"The biggest thrust of the enforcement right now is people who have failed to get their display permits," said Town Manager Terry Stewart. "We are working with them to inform them."
Kosinski acting vice mayor
Councilman Joe Kosinski was unanimously selected by fellow council members to become acting vice mayor, while Mayor Bob Raymond is on an excused absence due to health reasons. Vice Mayor Alan Mandel has taken over mayor duties as acting mayor during the period.
Hosafros/ Andre appointed to Town committees
Rexann Hosafros and Tree Andre were both appointed to fill vacancies on Town advisory boards.
Hosafros will join the Public Safety Committee, where she feels best suited for, and Andre will join two current members of the Marine Resources Task Force, which would befit her environmental background. With that appointment, MRTF is closer to being no longer a defunct group.