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Fort Myers Beach LPA recommends approval of TPI development, 5-2

February 13, 2018
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer


TPI Hospitality seeks to build a commercial planned development on its 5.07 acres of land.

A 270-room resort would sit on the triangle-shaped parcel which now holds Helmrich Plaza shops and a parking lot. The ground floor cannot be live-in space by FEMA code. All parking would be contained on the ground level using valet parking with mechanical lifts to stack cars both horizontally and vertically.

Article Photos

The town set up an outdoor area for overflow once the chamber hit fire code capacity. The livestreaming outside experienced several technical difficulties.

What's now a parking lot between the bridge and the Lighthouse Resort on Fifth Street would become a business center amenity to the resort.

A pedestrian bridge, accessible to the public, would connect the business center to the resort.

A stand-alone, open to the public bar and restaurant next to the Salty Crab. The top two floors would be an additional 30 hotel rooms.

Fact Box

What TPI Hospitality can build "by right"

84 hotel rooms

Three stories and 40 feet in height, measured from the base flood level, on the Gulfside of the property, three stories and 30 feet on the bayside

What TPI Hospitality seeks to build with deviation requests:

290 hotel rooms

Four stories and 40 feet in height on the bayside for the bulk of the resort, four stories and 40 feet in height , measured from the base floor level, on the Gulfside for one building

Another pedestrian bridge, also open to the public, would connect the resort to this building.

A new beach access.

A beach club concept on the ground level. It would be a resort amenity to its paying guests but also available to the public to purchase entry. Within the club would be a bar and restaurant only for beach club guests.

Rerouting Canal Street from its current angle to the southern end of the development, turning over the parcel to the town to use as paid public parking and providing a beach access point.

After seven hours of public comment and conversation between town staff, town consultant Bill Spikowski and the applicant, the town's Local Planning Agency recommended approval of the TPI Hospitality application, Times Square Resort.

The vote to approve came after some LPA members shredded town staff for providing a "supplemental" report just a week prior to the Tuesday meeting, contradicting some of the information provided by Spikowski in a report submitted several weeks ago.

"Did you just wake up a week before the meeting and decide it's wrong?" Jane Plumber, LPA member, said. "I have a hard time, that the town hired someone and is now fighting their own consultant. I'm just wondering how that a week before, we decided to put this report together."

Town Council hired on Spikowski as a consultant to the project, paying him to review the proposed development and cross-reference the Land Development Code and the Comprehensive Plan. Spikowski can often be called the "father" of the town's LDC, as he helped to write it. After Principal Planner Matt Noble resigned, Spikowski said he was asked to prepare a staff report.

Two weeks ago, Spikowski provided an 85-page analysis of the TPI proposal, giving the town governing bodies different options for approval, approval with amendments or denial. Town staff comments were a part of his review, he said.

"My report was developed with a lot of review with town staff," he said. "Since then, town staff issued a staff report. I thought there would only be one, that's why there's some confusion."

Town staff submitted the supplemental report last week, and it contained some glaring contrasts to Spikowksi's review.

For example, Spikowski found that based on his calculations of parking requirements per the LDC, TPI was short 5 spaces, need a total of 371 spaces. The staff report, which was reported Feb. 1 but was not available online until the following Wednesday, said the development needed 848 spaces, which did not include employee parking.

TPI Hospitality wants to build a resort, beach club and stand-alone restaurant. Within the resort there will also be an enclosed restaurant and bar for guests, and a restaurant and bar for the beach club.

The beach club is open to the public to purchase entry, but is also an amenity of the resort guests to use.

Green's report suggests that since there are two uses present, parking must be accounted for for both the resort and the beach club - even though resort guest will likely walk across the pedestrian bridge, not get their car to drive across the street to the beach club. Although the applicant has said it will limit public access to 225 tickets to the facility, which can host 950 people, there's no way for the town to enforce how many members of the public are going in. The town could risk approving something without sufficient parking.

Plummer referenced the many establishments on the beach that already don't have parking, such as the Salty Crab, saying most people will park and walk to where they want to go anyway.

Spikowski factored in the accessory aspect of the beach club, adding just parking that would count toward the paying public. He also included a parking discount that can be granted to developments in the downtown area that reflects the town's "park once" goal in the comprehensive plan, which brought him closer to the applicant's number than the staff number."

The contrasts between Spikowski's review and the town staff report had other LPA members disconcerted, too.

TPI provided a response to the staff review and sent to the LPA on Monday, alleging that the staff report brought up issues that had never been mentioned to the applicant since the project was submitted in March 2017, a troubling point to Dan Hughes, who is a former Mayor of the town and helped to write its documents.

"The applicant alleges there are things in the supplemental part never raised by staff. This is after one year of deliberations," he said. "Lastly, conflicts with Spikowski's report. Now, this puts us in a difficult position. We're getting two staff reports which in some issues conflict. That's not really fair or appropriate."

Green has worked for the town since September 2017. After the meeting, Green said the issues brought up, such as height, density, traffic and parking, have all been had in conversation with TPI. He said his report was compiled last week after he received Spikowski's report, which took time to review. Hughes said he knows Spikowski, and worked with him for two years with the town comp plan, six years with the LDC and knows he has 50 years of municipal law experience.

"He's one of the finest planners," Hughes said. "His report said there is not conflict with the comp plan."

Chairman Hank Zuba said he felt skeptical about the supplemental staff report. After discussion, he moved to approve the application with the four requested deviations and the 13 conditions as recommended by Spikowski's report, and discarded the staff report from mention.

Lorrie Wolf and Dan Hendrickson voted no to recommend approval.

Although Scott Safford voted yes, both he and Hendrickson said the LPA needed to discuss more publicly their thoughts on the "asks" of the developer and the conditions brought forward by Spikowski.

Hendrickson said he was concerned about the way density was calculated, increasing the ratio to allow more.

"I'm concerned we'll open up a can we can't close," he said.

Seventeen members of the public spoke before the LPA to express their opinion about the project.

Of that 17, nine spoke in favor of the project as applied; five spoke against, and three had an undetermined opinion. The five against it uniformly said they were not opposed to redevelopment of the site, or to TPI Hospitality, but to granting deviations to the land development code.

Andrea Carriere, owner of the Silver Sands Resort, spoke in support "110 percent" of a project that would almost be her next-door neighbor.

She said when Tom Torgerson made his first pitch with the scrapped Grand Resorts plan, she pointed out all the reasons he couldn't do it in the LDC. When he revised it to the first version of Times Square Resort, she pointed out those issues again, she said. With this third revision, she's supportive.

"The third plan, it's perfect," she said. "Please let me have a better view of my neighborhood. He's spent a lot of time, effort and money and talking to the town and town people about what you want."

Several of those speaking in opposition to the project came in the same t-shirts which said "size matters," a logo being used by The Voice of FMB, which "supports RE-development, not OVER-development."

Several of its members are other island hoteliers and residents.

Bob Boykin of the Pink Shell said the resort's proposed location is "crying" for something exciting to go there, but the development was big and "the comp plan hasn't changed."

TPI is seeking a rezoning with deviations from the LDC.

"Tom's doing his job, doing the best he can for his investment," Boykin said, but added his concerns about the density and traffic. "Don't degrade island life."

Tom and Annie Babcock sat on Torgerson's focus group when he decided to scale down the Grand Resorts idea. Both spoke at the meeting. Tom said he did not believe the proposal complied with the comprehensive plan, and it could lead to both a precedent and a legal challenge from future developers. Annie said the town needed to be sure the public benefits justified the approval that would increase density and height.

"The codes were written to control and limit," she said. "It's your job to preserve the community for years to come."

Jay Light, also a member of the focus group, also spoke.

"I was one of its most vocal critics to one of its biggest supporters," he said. "There's a difference of opinion (with Babcock)."

Cameron McGinty, a Cape Coral resident who has spent many years working on the beach in the service industry and now as Cam's Karaoke at the Surf Club, said the development would bring many jobs to the beach - ones that could support the fast-growing greater metro area.

"Everything I've seen is absolutely beautiful," he said. "This will provide the opportunity to brighten up the beach. Let's keep TPI successful. Please, don't prolong this."



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