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Neighbors don’t want building at Bayside Park

By Staff | Jun 16, 2020

There was a resounding “no” from business owners on Monday to the plans being considered by the Town of Fort Myers Beach Council to build a three-story building at Bayside Park overlooking the bay on Old San Carlos Boulevard.

The town council responded by putting a temporary hold on design plans for a building that would house restrooms, showers and a laundry room with a viewing deck at the park.

Owners of Nervous Nellie’s, Snug Harbor and the Harbor House all appeared in front of the town council opposed to the proposed redevelopment of the park, which is situated near their businesses.

The 40-feet high building would come within about six feet of Nervous Nellie’s, co-owner Tyler Lemmer said. In addition, Lemmer said the building would obstruct views of the water from a large section of his restaurant. He said the combined effects could cost his restaurant in the neighborhood of $1 million a year and a loss of jobs.

The town has contracted with the Fort-Myers based firm of DRMP for $190,700 to redesign the park, along with other fees, as part of three projects the town has assigned the firm to work on. The other two projects are Times Square (with a contract of $367,780) and Bay Oaks (a 30% design for $47,810).

Len Lemmer, who owns Nervous Nellies with his son Tyler, said nobody from the town has sought his opinion on the project. “This building will block views of the water,” he said. “The building will only benefit those who use the mooring field and take away rights from everybody else.”

Lemmer said the town should house some of the services it wants at the building at the Harbor House across the street which would be at a lesser cost and preserve the views at the park.

Lemmer said the building would ruin outdoor events that are held at the park for St. Patrick’s Day, the Christmas Boat Parade and Songwriter’s Fest. “Our water views will be replaced by views of a concrete wall,” he said. Lemmer said he thinks the building could end up costing 10 jobs at his restaurant. “Your laundromat is not worth 10 full-time jobs,” Lemmer said.

Tyler Lemmer said they only learned about the plans after watching survey crews placing markings about six feet from their building. “Frankly, myself and other residents and business owners of Fort Myers Beach find it incredibly alarming that so many wheels have been set into motion without consideration or input from those who stand to be most affected,” he said. Lemmer said that placing such a tall “concrete structure where there are amazing views of the back bay is an injustice to our island.” Lemmer said the cost of the project is another top concern. Lemmer said he supported a veteran’s memorial at the park, which had been proposed.

Town of Fort Myers Beach Manager Roger Hernstadt said the project has been worked on by various advisory committees before the town council gave approval to move forward with design plans in March. “There was no intention or effort to not get full public input,” Hernstadt said. At Hernstadt’s suggestion, the council agreed to move DRMP’s work to design plans for the Bay Oaks Recreational Campus.

There have been no public hearings on the Bayside Park project, though Hernstadt said there would be a time for more public input at a later stage. The project has not yet gone out to bid. Hernstadt said the town council could stop the project at any point.

The town council first received design proposals from DRMP, though there were no cost estimates presented, back in March. The council gave the firm and staff the go-ahead to move forward with a contract though the council didn’t set a specific amount. Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros said the project developed out of its Anchorage Advisory Committee.

Councilmember Dan Allers said the council would be best served to “slow this down a little bit” and “give people some input.” Allers said he would support “doing something with the space as long as it doesn’t involve the upland facilities.” Allers expressed support for a smaller-scale building. Hosafros said she would still like to have restrooms there.

Mayor Ray Murphy asked the council if it wishes to continue with the project, put a hold on it, or stop it. The council has a mixed reaction with Councilmember Jim Atterholt saying he had “serious concerns” with the location of the building. Atterholt said the project should be vetted more and is intrigued by the alternative proposal to place facilities at the Harbor House at the Inn.

Ultimately, the council, at Hernstadt’s suggestion, agreed to redirect the efforts of its design consultants to working on the Bay Oaks Recreational Campus.

Laurie Russell, resort manager of Marina Village at Snug Harbor, said “we are passionate about not building this site.” Russell said none of the village’s unit owners want the project. Russell said that if public input had been sought earlier, “you would have had all of us here saying ‘please don’t build this.'”

Jim Chastang, a board member of Harbor House at the Inn, said there should be a public hearing about the plans for the site. Chastang said the park is in a public right-of-way. “You can see boats and water” from the park, he said. “Why would you muddy it up?”