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Connecticut sidewalk? Residents say no

April 11, 2018
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Connecticut Street residents are tired of the town barging in.

Traffic speeds down Connecticut to Shell Mound to bypass Estero Boulevard. Vacation renters or other street dwellers walk down the middle of the street with their dogs.

But Connecticut residents aren't keen on getting a free sidewalk.

In 2011, the town applied for federal funding to get a sidewalk on Connecticut Street, asking for money from the Metropolitan Planning Organization of Lee County. Once an application for a project is deemed worthy of federal dollars, it takes about five years to get it funded and there was an additional time delay for this one.

The MPO is poised to give Fort Myers Beach $350,000, which includes design cost, for a 6-foot sidewalk down the residential street, but at a meeting Wednesday, residents were staunchly against what they considered an intrusion onto their property.

The town owns the street, and has a 50-foot right of way for the road way. The street itself is not 50 feet wide, however the town has the right to build a sidewalk within its right of way.

The right of way spans 25 feet to each side from the middle of the road - which means, what some residents thought of as their front yard is part of town property.

Bill Grady watches the people who walk up and down the street at all hours, some with beach chairs and gear, others on their bikes.

"We don't want to bring that closer to our home," he said. "Do you have any alternatives?"?Another resident wanted the sidewalk to be smaller, maybe 3 feet instead of 6 feet. However Roxann Lake, a representative from Florida Department of Transportation, said the sidewalk had to be compliant with the standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). She wasn't sure how narrow it could be allowed to be.

One resident, who declined to be named, said the sidewalk was needed as a safety issue as it's a trafficked road and people have no where to walk.

"Let's not forget, it's the town's right of way," he said. "A majority of homes are vacation rentals. This is a safety thing."?Other residents proposed the sidewalk should run from Estero Boulevard to Shell Mound Road on the south side of Connecticut Street. The only people who drive or walk past Shell Mound are residents or Mound House visitors, they said.

There are approximately 24 residents on Connecticut Street; about 10 attended the Wednesday meeting. Residents share the street with the Mound House at the end and Beach Baptist Church at the beginning.

It's not the first time Connecticut residents have spoken out against ideas they don't like for their street. In 2014 the town pursued purchasing an open lot at 216 Connecticut to provide overflow parking for the Mound House. Residents decried the project as commercial intrusion, but the lot was bought and converted into a passive park with room for extra Mound House cars.

Chelsea O'Reilly, Public Works Manager, said she'd take back the resident's comments and concerns to council and then see if the project could be adjusted to fit the desires of the residents. Lake said as long as the project was just reduced, and not changed into something else entirely, the town could still get the MPO funding.

Construction on the sidewalk is not slated to begin until Oct. 2019.



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