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Q&A with Commissioner Larry Kiker

May 31, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Lee County Commissioner Larry Kiker spent three days last week speaking one-on-one with his constituents in each of the municipalities his district encompasses. Kiker said he used to do these scheduled public outreach meetings a couple times a year, but last year he was on the campaign trail. Now that election politics have died down, he said he was ready to get out again and hear from a variety of people. His meetings were mostly positive, he said. In Fort Myers Beach, he met with about seven people. After his meetings on Fort Myers Beach, the Observer sat down to review what he'd learned.

What did Fort Myers Beach residents have on their minds?

There were some conversations about the Estero Boulevard project. I heard that functionally, it works. We had a pretty good rain (Thursday) and there wasn't a lot of standing water. There was continued concern about the brick pavers lasting, but that was pretty much addressed with telling them Lee County is responsible for maintenance, so there is no burden to the town there. There are some areas we know have issues, and we're okay with those right now. We have a punchlist of things we're going to fix on the road, so we can fix it all at once rather than fixing it all the time. We have some lessons learned from Segment 1. One of the ones that we picked up was with the trolley pulloffs. Some of the trolleys weren't using them. What we found was some of the signs hadn't been moved, people were standing where the sign is but the sign isn't where the trolley pulloff is. I think they just haven't gotten to it yet.

There was a lot of interest and discussion on Matanzas Pass Preserve area because of the historic cottages. I understand the Hepburn cottage is in great shape. Those folks have been wanting some kind of a building to educate and work out of but with the FEMA regulations they were going to have to put in something 20 feet tall. This saves the historical, doesn't have to be built up high so it will have easy access, this fixes that problem.

I think we can grow that for a regional facility for education - there are some really great ideas where you could grow that. Those discussions are coming forward. I'm kind of looking forward to all of that.

What was not talked about was TPI. He put in an application and it's moving forward in the process, there wasn't much concern about it.

There have been a lot of talk about the current state of Seafarer's Plaza. What is the county's plan?

I brought it up more than anyone else did.

The statement on what is happening there is that we let the town know that we're going to continue using it through Segment 2 as a construction staging area for Estero Boulevard. There's a parallel effort to look for other staging areas for the rest of the project, and to work off of Lovers Key. I would say they'll button up Seafarer's after Segment 2 and be done with it. In the meantime we're going to replace the fence with a picture mural - I don't know what they're going to put on it - to look much nicer and cleaner than what's there. We were told people were upset about this so we've been doing something about it since. I haven't seen the TPI drawings, but there are no active conversations with that. It doesn't mean they won't happen. We said a long time ago if they made application, if they wanted to have a conversation, we would if the town didn't say they didn't want it. I hold strong that anything we consider there has to be serving a public purpose, parking, traffic, bicycle and pedestrian safety. We'd be glad to talk to them.

Any concerns from San Carlos Island?

The county set up a site for input for the unique characteristics of San Carlos Island that would eventually end up in the Lee Plan. I heard some suggestions. Some were talking about for some enhancements to that website to make it easier for them.

Community visioning, that's a part of it- last time I talked to those folks, the residents said there are different copies or editions of vision plans and levels of understanding of where they are. The effort is to pull that all together so that there's one single vision that everybody agrees on. That's one of the things we should for for them, since they are unincorporated that's our job. There's no timeline that I'm aware of, but sooner than later. Depending on what exists in our code, once they (a developer) makes application then those are the rules that apply. If you change them later that doesn't apply. If we haven't made any changes to the rules, that's what gets used.

There was a concern that someone was trying to redo all the land use. I hadn't heard that. I think there is different interpretations of what that's about.

Anything else about your meetings you want to share?

I appreciate people taking time out of their day, who had concerns and great things to say about their community. If I could subtitle my conversations, it was about quality of life. I sense a change in how people feel about each other and the community. I feel they're ready for the positive.

I was impressed with how organized people were. They did their research, they took notes, they were well prepared. There were great conversations, and I can't wait to share them with the Board of County Commissioners and staff. There were some issues that are easily taken care of. My advice is don't wait, pick up the phone and say something.

The other more broad discussion was Edison Farms. There have been a lot of different organizations who wanted to put that property in conservation. Two and a half years ago, Lee County made changes to the (Conservation 20/20) program so it could strategically seek out property instead of waiting for a willing seller.

The appraisals are back and the county's working with a broker. I really hope before June is over, because we only have two meetings left, we can get some options for the board to take action on to pursue that property. I think we're getting close. That's good, good news. That's 4,000 acres. It's most likely the important purchase for Lee County in the last decade.



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