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Lani Kai sues Town of Fort Myers Beach, neighboring businesses

May 16, 2018
By CJ HADDAD ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The Lani Kai Island Resort has taken action against the Town of Fort Myers and three neighboring establishments by suing both entities over parking regulations, liquor and business expansion and noise complaints.

According to the Lani Kai, owner Bob Conidaris has been trying to resolve what the business calls an on-going parking issue since late last year, but no remedies have been put into action by the town.

The businesses the Lani Kai alleges are in noncompliance to town ordinances are the Gulfshore Grille, Beach Dog House and The Cottage, at 1250 Estero Drive, all owned by Colorado East LLC.

The Lani Kai is complaining that there is not enough parking spaces owned by the business and that its patrons are overflowing into resort property.

"In the past, we'd let anyone park on our property. We were just so happy to be able to help our community, and encourage visitors to see all of the wonderful businesses and wonderful things that Fort Myers Beach has to offer," Conidaris said in a prepared statement.

"But at this point, with the Town allowing some businesses outrageous expansions without the room for the additional parking required, there's no parking left on this little stretch of beach. If they keep this up, Fort Myers Beach parking will become a southern version of Manhattan, where everyone has to pay by the hour. If these expansions continue without the available parking, what island visitors are currently paying by the day (from $7 to $20 and up) will be charged by the hour. And I don't want that. It hurts our visitors, and inevitably, it hurts the small business owners of Fort Myers Beach," Conidaris' statement continued.

At the heart of the suit is the allegation that town employees failed to follow its own procedures in allowing certain changes to an existing business.

According to the suit:

In 2011, The Dog Beach House (attached to Gulfshore Grille) requested a change to full-service bar.

The town responded with a letter telling the business that a special exception and public hearing would be required for any expansion, either in service or area, because the establishment is within 500 feet of other license holders.

In January 2013, despite prior notification, an approval of expansion was granted by a former town planner without a special exception public hearing and no public notice.

The Beach Dog House is operating as a full-service bar, and has expended its outdoor seating area, complete with a roped-off area behind the venue on the beach which was used by the public previously.

The Cottage has risen in popularity, but has not accommodated its parking situation to its growth, which has led to heavy traffic and illegal parking at the Lani Kai, the suit alleges, adding the Lani Kai has, as a result, suffered economic loss.

The Lani Kai has had to widen its staff, using employees to monitor the situation in the parking lot, which has now been gated.

"Since last November, the Lani Kai has been reporting parking infractions of the neighboring business to the Town of Fort Myers Beach. They had said they would look into these issues, but nothing has been done and is ongoing," said Lani Kai attorney Ralph Brookes.

He also shares his concerns for other businesses in the area.

"Estero Drive is backed up, The Cottage is double and triple parking cars when the Town Council has previously denied that kind of parking at The Fish Bowl and other locations," he said. "The Cottage never went to Town Council but started these parking infractions on a regular basis. The Cottage was only approved as a service bar but has morphed into a full-fledged designation night club and bar. With more and more businesses coming to the Fort Myers Beach area, places are expanding without enough parking."

Brookes said these businesses have just bypassed regulations of the town.

"No code enforcement or action has been taken by the Town of Fort Myers Beach," Brookes said. "These places have never been cited for infractions and never presented any changes they wanted to make in Town Council meetings.

"The Lani Kai has gone to the town for approvals in the past and had to prove they had adequate parking, the same rules should apply to everyone equally and fairly. We've seen a history of improper administrative approval from the Town of Fort Myers Beach," added Brookes.

The lawsuit states the Lani Kai is looking for restitutions in excess of $15,000 due to loss of hotel revenue, loss of parking spaces and additional Lani Kai employee and contracted hours to monitor parking.

The Lani Kai is also requesting a stop work order to the businesses until it is compliant under all town codes.

"We think the Town Council is concerned about these matters, but they have yet to be brought up to them due to the forgone steps of these establishments and additions without proper approval," said Brookes.

"We do not comment on pending lawsuits," said Town of Fort Myers Beach Manager Roger Hernstadt.



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