Council OK’s SOB’s Expansion,
Hears Ebtide Hearing Report
Smokin Oyster Brewery is in for a facelift. At their meeting on Monday morning, the Town Council of Fort Myers Beach approved owner Bill Freeman's request to build a new deck and extend seating out on the Town-owned sidewalk area. The council also discussed their feelings on a proposed development on San Carlos Island, which goes before the county's Hearing Examiner for the second day of testimony on Wednesday.
During public comment, former councilman Tom Babcock urged council to send a letter to the county commissioners in support of his residents groups' findings that higher minimum flight levels would decrease airplane noise.
Laguna Shores Homeowners Association President Roy Hinkleman then thanked the council for their work on getting the much-needed dredging project finished after the first one failed in less than a year.
"Thank you and staff so much for helping to expedite this,” he said. "Hopefully, you won't have to see me up here again.”
During Local Achievements and Recognitions, Vice Mayor Alan Mandel thanked Mayor Raymond, Councilman Dan Andre and the Chamber of Commerce for another successful Christmas Boat Parade.
Councilwoman Jo List asked if there have been any questions about the Town’s New Year’s celebration.
"I have had a conversation with John (Lallo of Pete's Time Out), and they are providing two bands for us at their expense as this is a co-partnership like the Fourth of July was,” said Parks and Recreation Director Patti Evans.
List recommended that Evans find someone to work as a point person to coordinate everything so that the fireworks go off on time.
Mayor Raymond suggested that the Town seek sponsors for the fireworks in the future so that more fireworks could be purchased.
Audit Committee Chairman Jim Rodwell reported that the committee agrees with the current policy where checks from the Town up to the amount of $10,000 can be signed by the Town Manager. Checks over that amount must be counter-signed by either the Mayor or Vice-Mayor.
"Regarding our trust fund, only the Town Manager can transfer funds to and from that,” he said. "That fund is rarely used, so we are asking that the new policy require two signatures to make transfers.”
Mandel suggested that the committee look into that fund, with an eye towards the Town’s future needs.
Town Manager Terry Stewart reminded council that they directed the committee to work up an all-encompassing investment policy.
The council agreed with the committee’s findings and the policy change regarding signatures was made.
Council then appointed David Zimmerman to the Public Safety Committee (leaving two openings) and Keri Weeg to the Marine Resources Task Force (leaving five openings).
Next came the request from SOB's.
"This is to allow expansion of outdoor seating and consumption on premises (COP) onto the Town's Right of Way (ROW) that will include tables set onto the sidewalk and he's requesting permission to build a new deck on the Third Street side of the building,” said Leslee Chapman, Town Zoning Coordinator.
"They’re also requesting a waiver for the parking requirements associated with the additional space,” she concluded. "Staff recommends that council approve the request.”
Chapman also said that the ROW expansion would be granted via a lease agreement that Freeman would enter into with the Town, and that the LPA approved the project at their meeting on November 9th.
"The one concern they had was that people would have a clear path on the sidewalk,” she said. "With their site plan, they have provided a path of 7 feet, 7 inches, but the LPA wanted it as a condition of approval. They also wanted the area where the tables will be located to be painted or decorated with pavers.”
List said that since the pathway is already on their site plan, adding it as a condition seems redundant.
Councilman Dan Andre said that his only concern is with the deck on Third Street.
"For future use planning, we really do need a sidewalk there,” he said, and List agreed, saying there should be sidewalks on all streets in the downtown area.
Ed Scott spoke during public comment, saying this project would create a bigger bottleneck where cars are already backed up trying to get off the island.
Town Community Development Director Walter Fluegel said that the deck may actually improve conditions with the turning radius because there will no longer be any cars parked along the ROW.
The council voted unanimously (Joe Kosinski abstaining because he worked on the site plan) to approve the project. They rejected the idea of painting the pavers because it would involve unnecessary additional work for the public works department.
During Town Manager's Items, Stewart reported that the alternating light at Buttonwood has not been working properly and that Town staff is working with Lee Department Of Transportation (LDOT) to get it fixed.
"The other thing is that we have requested some federal funding that would enable us to put sidewalks on those side streets,” he said. "As far as the Mound House, we have been looking at different ways to get the project back out to bid shortly after the beginning of the new year.”
Mayor Raymond said he doesn’t understand why the project is taking so long, and Town Attorney Marilyn Miller explained that the bids that came in from the previous RFP could have gotten the Town into legal trouble.
Miller then gave a report on the hearing for the Ebtide development.
"The hearing examiner seems to be sensitive to the traffic question,” she said, and Fluegel agreed but said more information needs to be presented on Wednesday.
"I’m not sure that the county understands our system, for instance, our impact fees for roads are not for roads - they are for transportation and can be used to build sidewalks and bus space that improve flow,” he said. "I’d like to make another trip down there and explain that to her.”
List asked about public comment, and Miller said that a number of people did speak in opposition, with many more scheduled to speak at this Wednesday’s extension.
"One thing I learned is that we have to get someone to commit to being responsible for making the water taxi and shuttle become a reality,” said Raymond. "I learned a lot of things at the hearing that I want to question. There are five different developers in this thing, and I want to make sure they all commit to this. And now the condo towers can be used as hotels and they plan to sell time-shares. These are major changes.”
Raymond said the Town’s interest is meant to protect not only the beach, but San Carlos Island, too.
"I’ve done some research about 20 years down the road, and I can tell you that eventually whoever owns the land where the shrimp boats are will want to put in condo towers, too,” he said. "We need to start planning now so we are ready for that.”
During Councilmember’s Items, Mandel reported that the Matanzas Pass dredging project will likely be delayed 3 or 4 months due to the fact that most of the Army Corps of Engineers’ equipment has been sent north in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Councilman Dan Andre asked if a water taxi is even feasible, and Fluegel replied that they would need to secure a landing area on our island, and that staff is checking to see if that is permissible under the Town's charter.
"I would also like to change the name and scope of the Marine Resources Task Force to more of an environmental advisory group and to open it to people who live in the 33931 area code but are not within Town limits so more people can join,” he said.
Staff agreed to put the proposal on the agenda for the first meeting in January.
The next meeting of the Town Council of Fort Myers Beach will be held on Monday, December 17th at 6:30pm at Town Hall, 2523 Estero Boulevard. For an agenda, visit www.fortmyersbeachfl.gov.
Keri Hendry Weeg