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Missy Layfield - Editor
04/26/2012 at 4:28pm Delete

We all seem to want what’s best for our neighborhood, community, state and country. Though we often differ on the definition of what that is or how to go about obtaining it.

Say a community needs a playground. Most people agree that playgrounds are good for kids and families and are a sign of a good neighborhood. Until the playground is located next to your house. Then maybe it’s not such a good thing. Will you have to deal with errant fly balls hitting your house? Will it draw troublemakers in the middle of the night? Do you really want the noise of kids at play right next door?

Suddenly, the vision of a beneficial community project becomes suspect as the neighbors start talking about all the "what if’s” involving the park. Next thing you know, the park idea is squashed, there’s peace in the neighborhood, but the kids still don’t have a place to play.

That shift from a project to serve the community to a nightmare of feared imposition on the neighborhood, is known as NIMBYism or not in my back yard.

Our neighbors to the south have provided us with a perfect example of NIMBYism. Bonita Springs recently passed a one-year moratorium on permits for homeless shelters. St. Matthew’s House, which operates shelters in East Naples and Immokalee, has been looking for an appropriate location to build a shelter to serve the homeless in southern Lee County since 2005. One after another, each location drew resistance.
04/19/2012 at 4:33pm Delete

It’s April, traditionally a time to catch our breath after a busy season, especially as busy as this season has been. Yet we find ourselves at the front end of a very busy two-week stretch on the Island.

Kicking off today is Sand Bash at Holiday Inn, featuring over a dozen international Master Sand Sculptors creating unique masterpieces out of tons of sand. As this is an exhibition rather than a competition, look for the creativity to really come out in the sculptures, all in the theme of "Sand Bash Presents The Movies Sculpted in Sand.” Tying in with the Fort Myers Beach Film Festival, there will be a movie, A Dolphin Tale, presented after sunset on a big screen on the sand. Bring your blanket or rent a chair, then settle in to enjoy a unique Island experience surrounded by exceptional sand sculptures. This year the event also includes a Wine Tasting Festival that runs the length of the Sand Bash, from Friday, April 20-Sunday, April 29. There’s much to do each day so be sure you check the full schedule at sandbash.com.

Sunday, April 29 brings the 17th Annual Taste of the Beach and Business Expo to Bay Oaks. Sponsored by the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, more than a dozen of the Beach’s best restaurants will offer samplings of their favorite dishes to attendees. There will be live music under the oaks while Beach Businesses display their wares inside the gym. See page 34 for more information and the names of the competing restaurants.
04/12/2012 at 4:01pm Delete

By today, we’ll know if the South Florida Water Management District has agreed to release some fresh water to the Caloosahatchee River. They met Thursday on the East Coast to determine whether they would reverse last month’s decision to stop all releases from Lake Okeechobee into the river.

That’s a long way from here, you might think. It is, but we feel the effects of these kinds of decisions right in our back and front yards. Water from the Caloosahatchee flows into the Gulf and Estero Bay.

Let’s start at the beginning. Lake Okeechobee is used as a huge water storage basin, with tightly controlled water releases to an assortment of canals and rivers to provide agricultural irrigation and as a backup for Southeast Florida drinking water supplies.

Prior to the construction of the Hoover earthen dike around the lake and a series of canals and dams, Lake Okeechobee water flowed south to the Everglades. The 70 year-old Hoover dike is in danger of failing, so the lake can no longer serve as an effective storage basin for rainy season water.

The only consistent action taken to adjust to the shortage of water seems to be to cut off the water releases to the Caloosahatchee River. Other users are not asked to conserve or have their water allocation lowered, just the Caloosahatchee. East Coast media refer to water sent to the Caloosahatchee dismissively as being sent "out to sea.” (Sun-Sentinel, February 10, 2012). Meanwhile if water goes east, it’s being used to provide "key wildlife habitat.”

No mention of the water used for agricultural irrigation.

Apparently the wildlife habitat along the Caloosahatchee and in our estuaries is less important than any other use. The SFWMD says that each time they cut off all water flow to the river.
04/05/2012 at 4:22pm Delete

"The sun and the sand and a drink in my hand...”

These Kenny Chesney lyrics pretty much sum up the vacation dreams of many of the visitors and a fair share of residents on our Island. That anticipation of carefree days at the beach gets many a northerner through a snow-filled winter or a rough week at work.

This month the Island is abuzz with talk of Consumption on Premises in the Environmentally Critical Zone or COP in the EC for short. Whether you use the long or short form, one thing is certain…few people seem to understand what it’s all about.

This week the first of two Public Hearings was held on the issue during the Town Council meeting. The second hearing and council vote are scheduled for Monday, April 16 at the 6:30 pm Town Council Meeting. If you have strong feelings, pro or con, we urge you to attend.

But first, we urge you to educate yourself. Do not accept what your neighbor or the guy behind you at the checkout line says about the ordinance. Don’t accept what I have to say about it. Read it yourself. The ordinance, FAQ and an abundance of supporting documents are available on the Town’s website, fortmyersbeachfl.gov.

Everything you always wanted to know about COP in the EC is there.

The ordinance would allow bars, restaurants or resorts, in the downtown area (roughly Times Square to DiamondHead) that have a COP license and front the beach, to expand the area they are allowed to serve alcohol in to include some of their own land on the sandy beach.

How much of their own land? One third of the distance from what is essentially the back of their building to the Mean High Water Line or the Erosion Control Line where the beach has been renourished, but no more than 100 feet. Did I lose you there? It’s understandable because this involves zoning, alcohol, state regulations and local control. Add all those up and you need to buckle up and listen close to follow along.

Maybe that’s why people have been so willing to accept the overly simplified, exaggerated and misleading charges of those who want to stop "booze on our bathing beaches.”