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Town requests rights to County park

August 7, 2013
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Town of Fort Myers Beach officials are requesting that Lee County officials turn over the development rights to the three Gulf front lots that now hold Crescent Beach Family Park.

The action is in accordance with the Town's continuing goal of facilitating redevelopment of the property known within its records as Seafarers Community Planning & Development.

"Those rights belong to the Town," said Town Manager Terry Stewart. "What we have asked is to have those development rights transferred to the Town, so that we can hold those rights and be able to use those to encourage development at, perhaps, Seafarer's site."

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Town officials are looking into development rights at what is now known as Crescent Beach Family Park. Prior to Hurricane Charley, the three Gulf front lots were occupied by hotels.

Due to a request for rights transfer being a policy matter, Council had to vote on the subject. The unanimous approval will allow Stewart to craft a letter and send it to County manager Roger Desjarlais.

Prior to Hurricane Charley, three hotels stood in the parcels that now make up the park. Sandman Motel, which was located at 1080 Estero Blvd., Howard Johnson Inn, which was at 1100 Estero Blvd., and Day's Inn, which was situated at 1130 Estero Blvd., were all impacted by the hurricane and consequently closed.

The hotels collectively contained 66 units, so any potential redevelopment of the Seafarer CPD property would require some form of transfer of development rights.

"There is no reason why the Town should not be able to control those development rights," said Stewart. "The transfer of those development rights actually would be one way of insuring that it remains a park. No one could come along and try to buy the site and develop on it."

On May 25, 2010, the Lee County Board of County Commissioners authorized the purchase of the Seafarer's property along with the three Gulf front lots across the street for a total of $5.6 million. The Seafarer's property cost $980,000. The closing was finalized on Sept. 15, 2010.

If Town officials do receive a positive response from County officials, they will then decide if those development rights should be limited to the downtown area or encompass the whole island. Councilman Bob Raymond would like to see it limited.

"I personally would like to see the rights can only be used in the downtown area, our specific entertainment zone," he said.

Councilman Joe Kosinski would like to discuss development rights at a future workshop.

"I think we have been seeing a lot of development here on the island. This issue will come up again, so I'd like to see this as a workshop discussion," he said.

The whole Seafarer's site across the street from the park has been viewed as a strategic development area. Unfortunately, it has been left barren. An idea to construct at-grade parking lot there has been nixed.

Mayor Alan Mandel has stated he believes that site and adjacent parcels, if planned appropriately, may provide traffic mitigation. A private/public development has also been discussed. It could incorporate restaurants, hotels and shops with parking to the rear of the property. A pedestrian overpass linking both properties above Estero Boulevard has also been reviewed.

Estero Boulevard public input survey

Public comments and suggestions through an online website and a workshop in late February related to development of preliminary design construction plans for improving Estero Boulevard have been collected on a disc along with Lee County's summary of the input.

County officials are now seeking input and direction from Council. The Town officials will review the DVD and discuss the matter, possibly with County design team consultants, at a tentative Aug. 19 workshop at 10 a.m. That date is subject to County scheduling approval.

"From this, we are hoping to schedule a workshop to go over some of their suggestions based on the input that we received from the public and get direction from Council so that the consultants can get back to the County commissioners," said Town Public Works Director Cathie Lewis, the Town project representative.

County Department of Transportation's Rob Phelan attended the Council meeting and confirmed what is being sought.

"In the public meeting, we presented to two alternatives for the Core area. One of which was in the streetscape master plan, and the other was a variation that we came up with to help address some of the cyclists' issues," he said. "In the south section, we presented a typical section that was in the streetscape master plan. Both of which generated a significant number of comments, both for and against the inclusion. We need some feedback on how you would like us to proceed to provide clear direction on where to go to advance in design aspects."



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