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Town hires consultant for workforce housing

Fort Myers Beach Council authorized expenditure to support updates to comprehensive plan

By Nathan Mayberg - Editor | Oct 6, 2021

As part of a new effort to explore the development of workforce housing and strategies, the Town of Fort Myers Beach Council unanimously voted Monday to contract with Sara Propst for $26,880 to support comprehensive plan updates.

Propst, of Axis Infrastructure, has previously worked for the town in dealing with land development code issues. The town council has made workforce housing a new priority in a time when the use of short-term vacation rentals have soared, displacing long-term rentals and other residential housing.

Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros supported the authorization of the terms with Propst.

“I’ve worked extensively with Sara one-on-one about different projects in the past and her work ethic is amazing. Her knowledge is amazing. I was thrilled when I saw her name attached with this,” Hosafros said.

The town has also contracted with the Corradino Group to develop a new comprehensive plan. The consultants identified a lack of workforce and affordable housing in town. Councilmember Jim Atterholt inquired as to whether the Corradino Group could also work on the workforce housing end of the plan’s updates.

Town of Fort Myers Beach Manager Roger Hernstadt said “we have to find unique and innovate approaches” to finding ways to develop and “create opportunities for workforce housing” due to a lack of available properties in the town. Hernstadt said in other towns, the municipality would donate land for workforce housing but that is not readily available. “Traditionally that is done where the government has a lot of land,” Hernstadt said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of land.”

Hernstadt said the familiarity of Propst with the land development code in town made her ideally suited to work on workforce housing planning issues. Hernstadt said “she knows how the properties are being utilized.”

Hosafros said what Propst would do would be to “develop policies and programs in addition to the LDC (Land Development Code) changes” being conducted by the Corradino Group.

Atterholt also suggested that the town ask Propst work on finding parking issues for workers on the island. Atterholt said large employees in town “are very concerned where their employees are going to park.”

Councilmember Bill Veach said he thought parking was a separate issue from workforce housing, which was a separate discussion along with traffic.

Atterholt said he would like to encourage expanding parking options, preferably on the other side of the Matanzas Pass Bridge to not create additional traffic. “A lot of our challenges with workforce is parking,” Atterholt said.

Mayor Ray Murphy said “there is a lot of discussion going on right now about possibilities on the other side of the bridge.”

Atterholt said he wants to “encourage those as best we can.”

Murphy replied “if anything like that, is in fact in the works, it will certainly help our situation.”