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TPI project goes to LPA Feb. 13

January 16, 2018
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

After more than three years of conversation, the public's first opportunity to weigh in on town record has arrived.

Times Square Resort, TPI Hospitality's commercial planned development project, is scheduled as the only item on the Local Planning Agency agenda for its Tuesday, Feb. 13 meeting. The meeting will begin at 9 a.m.and is held in the Council Chambers at Town Hall.

"We look forward to the LPA in February and the Council in March and April," said Tom Torgerson, chairman of the board of TPI. "It will have been a three year journey for us by the time Council votes, and I can't tell you how excited we are to be at this juncture in the process."

Article Photos

1. Valet entrance for resort.
2. Business center/Family entertainment area with pedestrian walkover.
3. Hotel-related retail store (currently home to Fort Myers Beach Chamber.)
4. Seafarer's property, currently owned by Lee County.
5. Restaurant and bar with upper level hotel rooms.
6. Beach club.

In 2015, Torgerson unveiled plans for mega-development on Fort Myers Beach: multiple hotels, a boardwalk, a conference center and more. Grand Resorts was met with instant backlash from the community. With such a strong and negative reaction, Torgerson retreated. He formed focus groups with his most vocal opponents to come up with a new plan.

In 2016, Torgerson unveiled his next plan: Times Square Resort. It's been adjusted a few times since 2016, but the plan's basics are what will be before the LPA: one resort hotel with about 290 rooms, a pedestrian overpass, a bar and restaurant and an adult "beach club." Torgerson's project will fill his property at the base of Matanzas Pass Bridge on the left, and across the street on Estero where the Pierview Hotel and Cigar Bar are now.

Torgerson admits, Grand Resorts wasn't right.

"Grand Resorts was a mistake," he said in a previous Observer article. "The process got nasty, and I regret that. I have reason to hope this proposal will be a healing process. There are a lot of community fingerprints on this project."

The Times Square application isn't without its issues, however. While it's scaled back from Torgerson's original idea, it still requires deviations from the town's codes to be approved.

Town Manager Roger Hernstadt briefly discussed the TPI proposal with the Town Council at its Thursday planning meeting.

"The TPI application has substantial policy issues you'll have to address," he said.

Council has already begun receiving emails on the topic. Mayor Dennis Boback said the town manager needed to be sure that when TPI's application makes it to council that it's the only item on the agenda.

"We know what's coming, it's a matter of how we handle it," he said.

Council Member Anita Cereceda expressed concern that Town Hall's chambers couldn't hold the multitude of islanders who would be showing up to voice their opinion on the development. Hernstadt said they'd set up a tent outside if needed.

The application will go before the LPA on Feb. 13, but it could go before the planning agency multiple times before it moves on to council.

The town has solicited the help of local planner Bill Spikowski, who helped write the town's land development code, to review the project. Torgerson said Spikowski is currently writing up a review of the project for the LPA's consideration. He already reviewed the application once over the summer 2017 and sent back his concerns, some of which TPI has addressed.

In the meantime, residents may notice signs going up in their neighbor's yards reading "We Support TPI FMB."

Some local businesses have banners supporting the project, too.

"This grew up pretty organically from people asking us how they could support the project," said project consultant and spokesman, John Gucciardo. "The question became besides letting the Council know how they felt, how could they let their neighbors know that the project has community support."

TPI also has a Facebook page for those supporting the project:

While not everyone supports the project, those that do wanted to make it visible. Gucciardo said almost 300 signs have been ordered as of last week, with more than 200 distributed already.



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