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Guest Commentary: Answers to questions concerning Margaritaville

By Staff | Jan 8, 2020

With the New Years’ arrival there seems to be a flurry of misinformation being circulated on the coconut telegraph and in local mailboxes!

Yesterday I had a new resident in my neighborhood question me about some recent town council decisions. She was frustrated by conflicting stories she had either heard at the hair salon, read in a flier or surmised from the local news. It was her suggestion that I write this…I hope it helps.

These were her questions:

1. Can a newly formed council “undo” the previous TPI-FMB decision? Can they “get rid of” the new proposed development?

No. Any statement relative to the “undoing” or “changing” of the now Margaritaville development by newly elected council members is false.

In May of 2018 under the leadership of Mayor Tracey Gore, vice-mayor Joanne Shamp, council members Butcher, Boback and myself a unanimous decision changed the zoning on the properties associated with TPI FMB forever. This decision is completely different from something like the noise ordinance which could be legislatively changed by an act of the council on any given Monday. Zoning, once granted, goes with the land. It’s like changing it from blue to green. All of the decisions made in the course of the town’s public hearings are now listed and determine the use for the future of that property. Every decision relative to that development was made and completed in May of 2018. Nothing has changed and nothing can change without a petition from the property owner, not a council member, not a resident, not the Town.

Though you may see petitions, mailers, even campaign materials to the contrary, beware. The truth is that all of those efforts are simply to delay, not halt the future of our island.

2. The town gave away Crescent Beach Park and land to the developer.

Also, false. Crescent Beach Park is NOT a part of the downtown redevelopment project. The property belongs to Lee County and will continue to exist as an open beach/park.

3. (Probably her biggest concern) The Town council, under my leadership, recently gave away, vacated, additional property to the developer and eliminated a highly utilized beach access.

Again, what happened in May of 2018 was a consolidation of almost 7 acres of property in the downtown area.

The decisions that were made during those public hearings created a list of obligations for the Town, Lee County and the developer to fulfill.

I am including a map image of the overall project so that you can better visualize what I’m describing.

Let’s start with the question about vacating the beach access. Again, that decision was made in May 2018 during the public hearing process. If the map is confusing at all imagine standing in front of the Mermaid bar, look to your right and you will see Canal street. There is no parking… it is simply a narrow beach access utilized by neighboring streets. If you look to the left you see what is currently a parking lot area being utilized by the Mermaid which, just to give you a visual, is more or less what will become the new beach access with parking spaces and ADA compliance to the beach. You will also note on the map that there are additional accesses which currently do not exist on the North side of the property near Crescent Beach Park where Pierview Hotel and Salty Crab are now.

The bottom line is that public access is going to be greatly increased not decreased and most importantly that the recent action of the council was not “new” but merely a fulfillment of one of the Town’s obligations created in the zoning hearing of 2018.

Ultimately the community gains beach accesses and parking and as an added safety measure these points will line up with crosswalks and the future overpass.

One other parcel that was dealt with back in 2018 is the site of the former Ocean Jewels building. You can see it on the map marked parcel 4 right at the base of the bridge. That land was donated by the developer to the Town for future traffic improvements.

For as long as I can remember there has been talk about how to improve the entrance to the island at the base of the bridge relative to traffic flow. Because of their donation of that parcel to the town of Fort Myers Beach during the public hearings, for the first time there is enough property in public hands, county. town and state at the base of the bridge to realign traffic flow. Lee County and FDOT are currently in the process of designing that new entrance. Commissioner Sandelli is enthusiastically embracing this project and is taking the lead.

I am proud to have been part of the council that made this decision back in May of 2018. There was never before such an emotional, controversial or difficult case before us and with painstaking detail every effort was made to preserve the integrity of our community and allow for the redevelopment of what has been a less than appealing area in our Town.

The next few months will be interesting and no doubt filled with all kinds of “tales”… but hopefully 2020 will mark a great year for our community and for each and every one of us! I hope these clarifications helped!

Happy New Year!

-Anita Cereceda is the Mayor of Fort Myers Beach