WHO ARE WE?
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. Here on Estero Island we have a strong sense of community. We
have a vision of what our Island should look and feel like. Any
change is suspect.
Will it take something away from our
Island community? Will it add to it? Will it harm someone? Will it
Island-dwellers can tend to be a
little insular – focused just a little too narrowly on our 7-mile
piece of sand and sometimes on just our own home, our own interests.
Well, what’s wrong with that? Well,
it detracts from our sense of community.
If I only care about what happens to
my house and my neighborhood then I care less and less about your
neighborhood and our Island community.
For example: Public restrooms in
public beach accesses.
This battle has been raging for years.
Visitors and those who depend on them want a clean place for visitors
to relieve themselves during a day at the beach. Property-owners next
to those public accesses don’t want the mobile restrooms placed
there. In fact, from the comments that Town Council and CRAB have
received, it seems many property-owners don’t want anything in
those public accesses. No bike racks, no benches, no drinking
fountains, no showers, no nothing. The Lee County Tourist Development
Council keeps giving the Town money for these mobile restrooms,
apparently because they agree they are an important need of our large
visitor population. Each time the subject is raised, a handful of
beachfront property owners appear and make it clear what they don’t
want. The Town keeps kicking the can down the road because
neighboring property-owners don’t want them placed in "their”
Another example: Downtown Special
For years, there were just a few
events held in our Town. Shrimp Festival, Fourth of July, and New
Year’s Eve – that was about it for large-scale events. As our
economy tanked and then began to recover, more events have been
planned. Designed to bring visitors and customers to our Island to
support our local economy and showcase our wonderful Island.
A pattern has been developing recently
and it looks like this: A special event permit application is
submitted. Neighbors within 500 feet of the event location are
notified of the application. A handful appear in front of Town
Council and deliver the message that they don’t want the event.
It’s too loud, it’s too long, and it’s inconvenient. While they
have the right to state their opinions and deserve reasonable
accommodation, Town Council has the duty to balance the complaints of
the few against the benefits to the community.
Do we want to be a community where a
few outspoken people are given control over what happens in our
community – in our publicly owned spaces?
Is Shrimp Fest next? That parade ties
up traffic for hours and inconveniences many. And fireworks are loud.
Should they be eliminated because they bother some people?
The comments of an outspoken few
should not have the right to dictate how public space is used. I
agree that their opinion should be taken into consideration. But when
we reach the point where the neighbors have veto power over
publicly-owned property and events held on that property, we have
gone way too far down the wrong road.
I’m not a fan of loud noise myself.
My neighbor has a speedboat that when fired up, rattles my windows. I
could complain, but don’t. Why? Because I live in a community where
boating is a big part of the recreation smorgasbord. I adapt.
Motorcycles seem to have some
mysterious pass on the whole noise issue. One driving down my street
is noisy, but when fifty, a hundred, or more than 1,000 come through
Town on charity rides, it’s enough to drive me to earplugs. I
could complain about the noise, but don’t. Because I live in a
community where a lot of people really enjoy riding motorcycles and
it’s part of the culture in our community. I adapt. It’s all part
of being part of a community.
On Monday evening, the Town Council
will consider a Special Event Application for Taste of the Beach from
the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce. After drifting among
various sites over the years, the Chamber has had great success with
the downtown Old San Carlos location the last couple years. The event
highlights our downtown area, showcasing our community, sitting as it
does between bay and Gulf and within an easy walk of the Pier. It
provides an opportunity for local businesses to display their wares
and services to thousands of people who come to sample our tasty food
and leave with more knowledge of what Fort Myers Beach has to offer,
strengthening our economy – for all of us.
Let’s not handicap our economy and
let a handful of people dictate how our community uses its public
spaces. We will all lose if we start to eliminate events in those
public spaces. Think about the many events we enjoy here.
I stand firmly in the camp of those
who feel public land, whether it be street or beach or bay access
belongs to all of us, not just the neighbors.
If you agree, attend the meeting on
Monday evening. Let our elected representatives know that we all
benefit from these events held in our community’s public spaces and
you want them to continue. Your voice should count also. The public’s
voice should count.
The Island Sand Paper is a member of
the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce and Publisher Bob Layfield
is on the Board. This editorial is written and signed by the Editor.