Another business along Estero Island is expected to come into compliance by replacing its larger existing signage with a new, smaller monument-style sign to help improve the town's appearance and safety.
During a public hearing on Monday evening, the Fort Myers Beach Town Council approved two sign variances for Lani Kai Beach Resort at 1400 Estero Blvd. The approval allows the resort a requested 1.7 foot setback from the Estero Boulevard right-of-way and a maximum height of 9' 7" and no wider than 8' 2" as measured from the adjacent grade of the road or crown of road, whichever is greater. The variances include require landscaping and shrubs around the base of the sign.
Council felt compelled to allow such variances since Lani Kai officials had already removed three out-of-compliance business signs and faced obstructions. If the sign were lowered, there would be visibility reasons due to blockage from obstacles such as a FPL transformer, fire hydrant, back-flow device and a parking spot on the north side of the sign. Replacement of the sign somewhere else on the property did not seem just due to crosswalk issues and loss of parking spots.
Sign obstructions such as the shown FPL transformer, fire hydrant and back-flow device caused Council to give Lani Kai Beach Resort a variance relief and allow the business to have a ROW setback of 1' 7” and a maximum height allowance of 9' 7”.
"I don't have a problem with 9' 7" with the conditions," said Councilman Bob Raymond.
"I think they have shown very good faith by coming into compliance," added Vice Mayor Joe Kosinski. "I think there are enough extenuating circumstances to justify."
Councilman Dan Andre expressed his only concern comes from other approved variances. He cited Dolphin Inn as being granted a 9-foot overall sign, but agreed with his fellow Council members during the vote.
Applicant representative Robert Burandt, also a Beach resident, reminded Council members there were four signs on the property at one time.
"Please keep in mind that this was a business that was forced to take down signs to come into compliance with an ordinance as opposed to a new business coming in for a favor or a variance," he said.
Since the Town approved sign ordinance amendments back in April 2011, regulatory measures to meet the standards of the sign law have been reviewed by Town officials.
Property sign criteria requirements for a parcel of land involve height (five feet or less from natural adjacent grade or crown of road, whichever is greater), square footage (residential = 25 square feet; commercial with one or two businesses = 32 square feet; commercial with three or businesses = 16 square feet per separate business) and distance from the road right-of-way (3 feet).
In Lani Kai's case, due to the resort having multiple additional businesses and is consequently entitled to a sign with a maximum of 16 square feet and an additional 32 square feet per street frontage to identify the commercial development, allowances were made.
Burandt pointed out that the Lani Kai Resort operates about 12 businesses out of the property and eight different independent businesses as well. The variance heigh allowance will allow the applicant to use the same green base of the current sign, which was roughly 11 to 12 feet in height.
A monument sign's maximum height allowance of five foot was deemed "complicated" due to an existing FPL transfer box on the north side of the sign. A fire hydrant and back-flow device also limited sign viewing at the required height, thus Council felt obliged to grant a variance relief.
At a hearing on June 11, the Town's Local Planning Agency recommended approval of the Lani Kai sign setback request and sign height request of nine feet with a condition to require provided landscaping and shrubs around the base of the sign. Town staff suggested a sign height allowance of seven feet or 7' 6" as the minimum variance necessary. Management agreed with the two lower height allowances.
All along, Town Community Development Director Walter Fluegel has said that the objective of Town officials with the sign law is compliance. It is not to be punitive.
To apply for a variance, a representative of the business has to demonstrate some mitigating circumstances. You can't just come in and say that you want a variance that is so general in nature as far as the rational behind granting the variance, that it would allow everybody to apply for that variance.
Lani Kai officials tried to designate its signage as a landmark, but was denied. A business can go through the landmark designation, but there is a risk assessment of paying to go through that process. If denied, the sign still needs to come into compliance. The existing Lani Kai sign has been in place for some 40 years.