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Editorial 639

Missy Layfield - Editor

The Coconut Telegraph*

Did you hear about the parking garage they're going to build at Seafarer's?

No? Well, then you might want to check your connection to the grapevine or coconut telegraph here on the island. True or not, this "news” spread like wildfire this week.

What’s the truth?

On Monday afternoon, Vice Mayor Joe Kosinski presented one idea on how traffic and parking congestion might be relieved. He presented a description and drawings of two multi-level parking ramps to be located northwest of the bridge along Old San Carlos Boulevard. He said he'd spoken to some of the businesses in the area and emphasized that this was only one possible idea.

Was that enough to stifle the telegraph? Of course not! By Tuesday morning, the wires were humming with how the Town was going to tear down everything on Old San Carlos Blvd. or there was going to be a big parking garage on the Seafarer's site or somesuch.

Turns out the coconut telegraph was wrong, as it usually is. If you’re interested, it's very easy to find the truth in this. The topic was part of the Town Council Workshop on Monday. Every Town Council meeting and workshop, for that matter, every Town committee, has a published agenda available. The agenda posted on the Town's website provides a link to the background information that Council members are provided prior to the meeting. It's available to anyone, both before and after a meeting. For instance, if you want to know what information was provided to the Local Planning Agency/Historic Preservation Board in the matter of the request for Historic status for the Big "M" sign at Moss Marine--it's on the website as part of their February and March meeting agendas. For that matter, just about any topic discussed has background information attached to the agenda. Check it out for yourself.

So you'll find the whole presentation of the proposed parking structure, with drawings and sketches, linked to the Monday Workshop agenda under "Parking Alternatives."

It's not at the Seafarer's site, it doesn't propose bulldozing all of Old San Carlos. It does propose a plan that would bring some major changes to two iconic beach restaurant/bars. And if I were the owner of one of those businesses, I'd be more than a little surprised to find that Council is discussing or even listening to a plan that involves major changes to my business without a heads up first.

That said, Council was just talking about ideas, nothing more. That’s the purpose of workshop meetings. No votes are taken; no final decisions are made-workshops are for discussion and background. And we want to encourage the sharing of ideas. How many times have you heard that we need to think outside the box to solve our traffic problems? Well, someone is thinking outside the box. Is the best idea? Will it work? Is it worth the upheaval the plan would cause? I don't know. But I do know that if people continually plead with our leaders to fix the traffic problems we struggle with for 3-4 months of the year, we should allow them the latitude to do a little creative thinking.

When you ask an engineer to do creative thinking on a problem, you're going to get a full-blown plan, complete with diagrams and sketches and lots of detail. And that is what Kosinski presented on Monday afternoon: an idea - one idea - from one man who thought he might have something to offer to address a chronic problem.

While it would have been good to give a heads up to the businesses named in this idea, there is no condemnation order, no eminent domain, no permit applications in the works.This is just an idea. And we should be encouraging ideas. We've got a difficult problem here on the island. We have way too many cars trying to use our 2-lane road. Other communities solve that problem by widening the roads. We can't make Estero a 4 or 6 lane road without destroying much of the island, so we've got to be creative and come up with some new ideas. We can't depend on Lee County to do it for us. While they must be involved in anything involving Estero, because they own it, we are the ones who live with the daily gridlock. We need to be open to ideas, even ones that may seem a little out there.

Before you dismiss the concept brought up at the Workshop Monday, take a minute to actually look at it yourself. Maybe, just maybe, this idea may trigger another one in someone else and somewhere down the road, we may actually find a solution that offers relief for Estero drivers.

Missy Layfield

*Not to be confused with the Coconut Telegraph on our website.