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12.18.17 Meeting Minutes

Brief highlights from Monday’s Fort Myers Beach Town Council meeting

December 20, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Alcohol allowed: Two Times Square merchants spoke at public comment to request the town do as it's always done for New Years Eve: lift the ban on open containers within the Times Square area. John Lallo, owner of Pete's Time Out, said it's been allowed for the past 22 years. "People are used to going to the Square and walking around with a beer," he said. Without the ban lift, it would be a headache for the Lee County Sheriff's Office to try to ticket everyone who didn't know the rules had changed. The town council voted 5-0 to lift the open container ban at Times Square on New Years Eve, only within the bollards of Times Square, from noon to 1 a.m.

Variance vanquished: In a 5-0 vote, town council denied a setback variance for a new residence on Miramar Street. The property owner, Daniel Cronen, wanted to build a new residence on an his lot and amend the front yard setback from 25 feet to 20 feet. The old residence is 955 square feet; the proposed residence was more than 3,000 square feet. The applicant wanted to add a story and realign the footprint of the home to match the curved waterfront. Several neighbors wrote to the town in protest of the variance, as well as spoke during public comment. "He should have known what he was getting into when he bought (the property), to me that's clear," Council Member Bruce Butcher said. A snag was hit during the quasi-judicial hearing when Vice Mayor Tracey Gore said she had found a lot survey from 2013 that conflicted with the one provided for the variance. Since the hearing was quasi-judicial, new information cannot be added to the record. However, the council denied the variance in the end because the five criteria required to request a variance were not met in the first place.

"It's not a burden to the property owner except that it means they can't build as big as they want, but you can still build a sizeable home with a view," Council Member Shamp said.

Pot prohibition: The council voted 4-1, Butcher dissenting, to approve a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries within town jurisdiction on the beach. The dispensaries are facilities which administer approved medical marijuana to patients who have received proper approval to get it, and are separate from cultivation facilities or from cannabis clinics that do the prescribing. Medical marijuana use was approved by voters in the state of Florida by referendum in 2016, and 75 percent of beach voters were part of that approval. However, the town now joins multiple municipalities in the area who have banned dispensaries.

Newsrack ordinance knocked: Although the proposed news rack ordinance had reached its second and final hearing, town council members were not on board. The proposed ordinance dictates where news boxes can be placed and their appearance - and a last-minute change by staff added a paragraph in which newspaper companies could be fined for home delivery if more than two papers were left in the driveway at one time. Representatives of both Breeze Newspapers and The Sand Paper spoke up with their concerns regarding the ordinance. Bob Layfield, owner of the Sandpaper, said he felt the ordinance was curbing the community's First Amendment right to free speech and access to news and information. John Lallo, a member of the public, also voiced his concern. "You have to be very careful about the precedents you're about to set," he said. "If this happens, there will be a lot of media out here and it may not be what you want. We love the small papers and we want to see them around." The council decided to knock the ordinance back to a management and planning meeting to hash out details before taking it to a final vote.



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