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Property owner with chair rentals told no on permit appeal

May 25, 2016
By John Morton ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The first casualties of the town's new beach-chair vendor ordinance are a pair of neighboring operations at Avenue C and I Street.

Last week, the Town Council unanimously backed the recommendation of the town staff to deny an appeal by SJ Property Management. The company purchased adjacent properties with existing chair-rental operations on Jan. 15 of 2015 and did not file for permits by March 1 - the date when non-permitted vendors were required to prove they had operated continuously by Jan. 1 of 2015 and had a $1 million insurance policy, among other things.

Attorney Matt Uhle argued that "the regulation showed the use was permitted by right, and had existed in an unbroken fashion for years this is why purchase was made. It was the town's decision to put my clients in the position where they can't get their investment back."

Part of the ordinance, however, prohibits the transfer of permits.

"What Mr. Uhle is asking you to do is ignore that because the vendor who was renting beach furniture at that location is no longer there," Town Attorney Dawn Lehnert said. "The current property owner purchased the property 15 days after the drop-dead date, so there is no way he could prove to us he had a business there."

Added Megan Will, the town's senior planner, "Council directed us to interact not with the property owner but with the vendor - the person who would be having their livelihood taken away. The idea was to stop perpetuating non-conforming business, but not put anyone out of business while doing it."

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Application for permits as a new business is also not an option for the appellant, as new vendor operations are now limited to resort locations featuring 50 units or more. The two denied properties don't fit that criteria.



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