To the editor:
The influx of people to a tropical island such as Fort Myers Beach commands space for walking, sunning, and just enjoying the sand and Gulf Waters. Local state governments along the coast gradually passed laws that established public use areas. Building distances from the water were defined to protect the local population and beachfronts have been cared for and reserved for public use only. It is otherwise, unusable land. Thus, no private zoning.
As business owners purchased property along the beach, most were aware of the overall situation and never expected to attempt to claim the sand that is obviously frequently under water. Every owner knew that this was not his or her private domain. When Estero Island was incorporated from Lee County in 1995, there were no doubts where the public beach was and is. However, after the town was incorporated, one large business began to periodically make extended use of the sandy beach area. Then a few years later, another business followed suite. More recently, another business made the same move. It was not a particular problem at the time.
As establishments began to increase in numbers along the beach, a desire to serve alcohol looked to be a profitable direction to proceed. Of course, establishments are required to have a liquor license in the enclosure of their present business structure. It is my understanding that the new LDC ordinance, as written by the new director, will allow a mere special request from this same business operator to receive a liquor license to extend their serving of alcohol outside of the bar structure and into the environmental and critical zone of the public beach.
Last spring, two businesses were given permission to sell alcohol outside the perimeters of their building structure located on Estero Boulevard without a request for this special extended alcohol license. This Council action prompted beachfront bar businesses to rise again to the idea of a special zoning change so that they can extend their alcohol services onto the public beach.
For 16-years, Town Council Members rejected requests for permitting the serving of alcohol into the public beach along this beachfront because residents came to the island because of the beach, not because of the bars.
Serving alcohol on the public beach never really became an issue until recently when the present Town Council was elected. These five council members, paired with their nonresident town manager and several staff employees now manning the community development department, seem on a common path toward making alcohol readily available to all public.
Being a 22-year Beach resident and serving two Council terms, I find it difficult to sit by and allow this to happen. I have asked residents to come to Council meetings and let their thoughts be known.
My belief is that permitting the serving of alcohol on the sandy beach will ruin it for families and residents with children. If I could have visualized that our town would accept this, I would not have extended my efforts toward incorporation.
I plead to the residents to come out and share your thoughts with Council and ask Council members to vote 'no' to this zoning change request.
Fort Myers Beach/ Former Mayor