At their meeting on Monday night, the Town Council unanimously approved a $25,000 funding request for the Friends of the Arts, an ordinance updating regulations for parasail and jet ski vendors and agreed to table a request for an amendment to a construction plan for Matanzas Resort until neighbors’ concerns could be addressed.
During Public Comment, Georgia Reinmuth invited Council to Fish Tale’s 2nd annual pancake breakfast fundraiser on November 8th from 8-10am.
"This is a community event that a lot of businesses in Santini Plaza are contributing to to raise money for Beach Elementary,” she said. "Al and Kathy Durrett, Beach Elementary Principal Larry Wood and Lee County Commission Chairman Larry Kiker will be flipping pancakes.”
Attorney Justin Stockman spoke next on behalf of Edison Beach House, where he asked Council to reconsider their denial of that property being allowed to have a jet ski/parasail vendor. Council agreed to reconsider the item at their next meeting after being advised to do so by Attorney Derek Rooney.
During Advisory Committee Reports, Becky Bodnar read a letter written by Ceel Spuhler on behalf of the Cultural and Environmental Learning Center Advisory Board (CELCAB).
"CELCAB has been meeting twice a month so that the Town’s consultant - SEARCH, Inc. - could present the exhibits that will go into the Mound House,” she said. "We finalized the bathroom kiosk, panels for the Calusa room and post-Calusa room. However, last Saturday some people that were scheduled for tours left because it was too far for them to walk from Beach Baptist.”
Council then agreed to enter into a contract with Tetra-Tech for Phase 1 of the Water Main Improvement Project and awarded Kelly Brothers, Inc, the bid to replace the seawall at Newton Park before entering into a lengthy public hearing on a Commercial Planned Development Amendment being requested by Matanzas Inn Resort.
The proposed amendment removes a parcel on Old San Carlos that has since been sold, redevelops a building housing four apartments into parking and transfers those dwellings into 12 additional hotel rooms in the main building, adds a second floor to the western half of the southernmost hotel building and adopts a unified sign package for the entire resort.
Principal Planner Josh Overmyer spoke on behalf of staff, saying that the amendment - which was approved by the Local Planning Agency (LPA) in June - is recommended for approval.
"One of the purposes of the request is to provide for pre-disaster build back, something our Land Development Code (LDC) encourages,” he said. "The request does include the addition of 4,000 square feet for the restaurant.”
Overmyer said that the Local Planning Agency (LPA) recommended approval with the following conditions: that the use of the first floor be limited, and guest unit size not to exceed 1200 square feet with an average of 800 square feet.
A number of people spoke against the request, citing concerns with the expansion of the hotel and restaurant when so many people live nearby.
"If this was a vacant lot, they wouldn’t be allowed to build a hotel here,” said Jim Shenko.
Shenko’s attorney, Matt Uhle, said there have been issues with entertainment at the property over the years.
"We are asking for what we think is the only solution - that all entertainment be contained in an enclosed building,” he said. "And we definitely want no COP in the pool area.”
Primo resident Tracey Gore said that the original master concept plan included several parcels no longer part of the plan, and that that plan also included bigger setbacks.
"The property has always been conditioned to protect the residents, and that should continue,” she said.
Councilwoman Rexann Hosafros said she has many issues with this proposal, adding that she believes the owner has made promises that haven’t been kept.
"I don’t agree with moving density from an area that’s further away from the residential area to one that’s closer,” she said. "My suggestion is that this be brought back to us in some other form.”
Matanzas Inn owner Doug Speirn-Smith said that music and noise have always been an issue and that he has tried to be a good neighbor.
"We already have CPD approval to expand the restaurant,” he said. "We agreed to do a noise study to give us advice, we agreed not to violate the noise ordinance and we agreed to face all speakers towards Estero Bay,” he said. "I think it’s reasonable for a 250-seat restaurant to want music. I sit on the corner of 2nd and Crescent and I hear Yucatan, SOB’s and Nervous Nellie’s. We don’t want to be a bad neighbor and we will continue to do anything reasonable.”
Councilman Alan Mandel said that noise has been an island-wide issue for many years.
"I think the neighbors have brought up some very important things regarding the noise - I wonder if the parties can meet and look at these and have some give and take as to what will work and what won’t,” he said.
The rest of Council agreed, and Speirn-Smith said he’d schedule a meeting with his neighbors on November 3rd. The amendment request was then tabled until November 17th.
The second public hearing was for the approval of an ordinance updating parasail and personal watercraft regulations. A number of people spoke, including parasail/jet ski business owners who questioned the decision to increase the distance between businesses from 500 to 750 feet. Others questioned why parasail and jet ski licenses were lumped together.
Mayor Anita Cereceda said that - in 19 years - there have been no issues with the 500-foot distance and she supports keeping it that way. Councilwoman Summer Stockton and Hosafros disagreed, saying the shorter distance may make the beach look cluttered in the future.
Council agreed to change the language back to 500 feet, agreed to allow solicitation of business up to the property line and removed an insurance requirement for non-active licenses. The ordinance passed unanimously.
Next came a request from Nervous Nellie’s for use of Bayside Park (Town Fountain) for their Roy Hobbs party, a request that would include alcohol consumption but no live music. Council quickly approved the event, and also approved an alcohol permit for the Craft Beer Festival scheduled for November 15th at Bay Oaks.
A discussion regarding appointments to an ad hoc committee to look at downtown redevelopment was tabled until the committee could be re-advertised as now two residents are being sought to serve instead of one. Those interested can apply via the Town’s website at www.fortmyersbeachfl.gov.
Despite disagreeing over interpretations of the LDC regarding water depths and deck elevations where observation decks and fishing piers are to be constructed, Council then voted 3-2 (Cereceda, Stockton dissenting) to approve construction on an Observation Pier at the Mound House.
"I interpret the LDC to mean that you can build a fishing pier wherever you want, but boats cannot dock to it unless the water depth is sufficient for mooring,” Councilwoman Rexann Hosafros said.
Mayor Cereceda, raising the objection, said she doesn’t like the timing of the request and expressed concern that Council is being asked to make a policy decision on the spot.
Finally, Bob Layfield, Al Durrett, Georgia Reinmuth and Cynthia Dobyns - representing the Friends of the Arts - made their annual funding request to Town Council.
"The Friends of the Arts come before you today seeking the Town’s continued support for its mission and activities in our community,” Layfield said. "Its mission is to promote all the various art organizations and artists in our community.”
Layfield then introduced Dobyns, who reported that - on average - those attending this year’s Film Festival spent an average of $800.
Council unanimously voted to approve the request.
The next Town Council meeting will be held at 6:30pm on November 3, 2014.
Keri Hendry Weeg