Times Square project criticized by councilmember
Fort Myers Beach Council considering plans that would include sails 50 feet high
Town of Fort Myers Beach Councilmember Jim Atterholt questioned the town’s contracted engineering and design firm as to whether the view of the Gulf of Mexico would be impacted by new structures proposed at Times Square, as part of the town’s renovation project.
Paul Benvie, an engineer with DRMP, told the town council Monday that the sails at Times Square (which could stand as high as 50 feet or more) and an FMB structure with the town’s logo were meant to be “selfie spots” the previous council expressed support for. “It certainly adds something,” he said.
Atterholt said he felt the structure with the “FMB logo” proposed “seems odd to be blocking that beautiful ocean view.” Atterholt said the view “can’t be matched.”
Atterholt stressed that “you can’t beat that ocean view. There is nothing that can touch it.”
Fort Myers Beach Manager Roger Hernstadt said the structures could be removed for certain times.
The project also faced some scrutiny over the use of lights and planting of palm tress at Times Square. Councilmember Dan Allers questioned Benvie about the new lights proposed and whether it would interfere with turtles. Benvie said “it’s not an issue.”
Councilmember Bill Veach said any white light “could affect the turtles.”
There remains concern among councilmembers that the palm trees proposed could be a threat to visitors and businesses. Veach said he would prefer shade trees due to the risk of the palm trees damaging the roofs of businesses.
Hernstadt said the town could consider different trees than the palms that have been proposed. Benvie said coconut palm trees are being proposed.
“Those are the two problem palms,” Mayor Ray Murphy said. “Coconuts, you’ve got missiles. Royals drop those massive fronds when they do fall.”
Murphy said there are better shade trees and palm trees though he doesn’t want big, leafy trees. “I think there are lots of other palms we can look into. Those canary date palms – they are expensive but they are beautiful palms. The queen palm is a beautiful palm and would accomplish the same goal here.”
The designs also propose building a stage in the middle of Times Square.
Hernstadt said the timeline for the project may depend on whether businesses would prefer to have the work done in stages or straight through. The town intends to do stormwater and drainage work in the offseason at Times Square. The total amount of time for the project has been estimated at eight months.
Two business owners at Times Square told the council they wanted to be consulted more on the project.
Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros said the last time there was a workshop with the businesses, “none of you agreed on anything.” Hosafros suggested the businesses bring back a united perspective.
“If you all disagree, it’s not helpful.”
The Times Square project is part of $10 million in renovation projects the town has borrowed for, including the Bay Oaks Recreational Campus renovations and Bayside Park renovations.