With Mound House scheduled for an opening this fall/winter, the need to accommodate potential visitors with viable parking off site has reemerged.
Besides the limited, inadequate parking on the backside of the house, the Town owns property at 216 Connecticut St. and had original intent to construct that vacant parcel into a parking lot. At the time, however, that idea received much opposition from neighbors who posted concerns about "commercial intrusion on a residential neighborhood."
On Monday, the Fort Myers Beach Town Council reopened discussion of the Connecticut Street lot, a property that has been zoned for recreation future land use. Prior to that, Beach Mayor Anita Cereceda sat down with a few area residents about the opposition, which included fear of renting or leasing that lot for other uses.
The town-owned empty parcel at 216 Connecticut St. is being brought up for discussion once again.
"They were very concerned about any use associated with parking there that was not specifically for the Mound House," she said.
Cereceda brought up a possible gate that would be locked except for Mound House parking activity and a rethinking of the parcel's zoning.
"We need to not think of that parcel as a parking lot, but think of it as a park," she said. "It needs to function as a park for that neighborhood and, at the same time, provide overflow parking for the Mound House in a shell or gravel, not asphalt, surface. I think that would be an improvement to the neighborhood."
Cereceda mentioned the neighborhood improvement concept to the area residents.
"In our comp(rehensive) plan, it says that we should increase green space. I see this as an opportunity to increase green space," she said.
Currently, Council is leasing parking space at Beach Baptist at the top of the street and providing shuttle service, while the 216 Connecticut St. lot has remained dormant.
"I think it is a little insulting to be spending money every single month, every single year at the baptist church to basically not deal with an issue that is already at hand," said Cereceda. "Specifically, for those neighbors, it is unfair because they don't have a reasonable expectation of what's going to happen there. That is unacceptable."
Mound House is currently zoned commercial plan development, not institutional. Town Planning Coordinator Josh Overmyer relayed that Lee County has a community facilities plan development. However, Town Attorney Derek Rooney stated it would take some time to develop a new zoning category for the Town of Fort Myers Beach.
"I looked over the concerns raised by the neighbors in the minutes of the Local Planning Agency meeting," he said. "While I don't think any of them can be thrown out, I think they can all be dealt with by putting a more detailed plan together."
Town officials are expected to present further discussion during a future neighborhood meeting. Cereceda would like to the yet-to-be planned meeting to include Town Manager Don Stilwell and Overmyer among others.
If area residents are not receptive to a renewed plan, the Town may put the parcel up for sale.
"I think people would be delighted if you took it off the tax rolls and sold the property," said Stilwell.
"I think we should make one last stab at this," added Councilwoman Rexann Hosafros. "If this doesn't work this time, then we do need to sell it."
Be careful what you wish for.
"I could imagine any one of the latest homes that are being built on Fort Myers Beach on that lot," said Cereceda. "I think they would be miserable with that."
Community outreach is being planned.
"The biggest thing is that Mound House is going to open, whether or not it's October or January," said Cereceda. "I think it is our charge to deal with this, so that the neighbors know it is on the table or off."