TO: Local Planning Agency

FROM: Bill Spikowski and Carol Cunningham

DATE: July 18, 1996

SUBJECT: Your July 23rd Meeting


During your meeting of July 9th, we focused on articulating "where we are" and "where we would like to be" on Fort Myers Beach. Attached is a preliminary summary of that discussion, and an initial identification of issues to be addressed during the comprehensive planning process.

Our session with Victor Dover on July 16th illustrated the importance of linking the words we use to describe our future with actual images of how those ideas can be translated into the reality of the built environment. We discussed the importance of writing our policies and regulations as "pro-active" measures to promote the desired future vision, and the importance of "reality testing" to be sure that our policies and regulations do in fact produce the desired result according to our vision. (Videotapes of that session will soon be available.)

In our meeting on July 23rd we would like any feedback, additions, and clarification on the summary and issues list. Those LPA members who were not able to attend the previous meetings are particularly invited to offer their observations. Also during that meeting we will provide a preliminary identification of themes or principles that emerge from the July 9 and July 16 discussions and previous planning documents. We will continue formulating and refining the vision for Fort Myers Beach in the joint workshop with the Town Council on September 10th and with the broader community throughout this process.

On July 23rd we will also be presenting some initial results of our research and mapping effort. The maps will be refined over the summer to reflect underutilized as well as vacant land; existing land uses; existing zoning; and today's future land use map. Also attached is some preliminary information we have developed on the status of previous permitting activities within the Town of Fort Myers Beach and recent growth levels.





There are many perspectives and interests represented on the LPA and within the Fort Myers Beach community, including:

There are many civic organizations and opportunities for involvement in Fort Myers Beach. Members of the LPA participate in community life in such organizations or capacities as Fire Commissioner, Power Squadron, Lee County Tourist Development Council, Governor's Commission on Tourism, Community Redevelopment Agency, Fort Myers Beach Civic Association, National Board of Realtors, and head of the Beach Chamber of Commerce. Other interests or perspectives identified include environmental and historic preservation, the educational impacts of the new FGCU, and the "Beach free spirit." LPA members talked about what they liked and disliked most about their community:

LPA members talked about what they liked and disliked most about their community:

Everyone liked the strong sense of community here, emphasizing that Fort Myers Beach is a perfect place to raise a family. Neighbors know each other, look after each other, and there is a general "laid-back" friendliness prevalent in the community. As a result, Fort Myers Beach is a safe, secure place to live. Everyone agreed that the Beach elementary school is a strong asset of the community, providing not only a quality education and sense of continuity for children on the island, but also acting as a community focal point.

The diversity of experiences available to island residents and visitors was also noted as an asset. Everyone likes the weather, the magic of nature, great boating opportunities (natural destinations in every direction as well as commercial destinations such as restaurants) and walking, swimming, and just enjoying the beaches.

Participants almost unanimously identified traffic problems as a factor they liked least about living in Fort Myers Beach. Other problems identified were growing pollution in Estero Bay and in the canals, lack of attention to safety by new boaters, drainage problems, evacuation route constraints, the complexity and inconsistency of development regulations, inadequate (or discontinuous) path system to accommodate both biking and pedestrian movement, shortage of programs for early teenagers, and lack of involvement in the local decision-making process by winter residents.

Considering the question of how LPA members would like Fort Myers Beach to look, feel, and function in the future, participants offered the following observations:

Fort Myers Beach could become a more comfortable Florida coastal city, with more trees, more walking areas, better views of the water, cleaner with deteriorated areas revitalized, stronger local businesses, and a place where their children would like to return to live as adults because of the great quality of life.

The island needs more cultural activities such as theaters, lectures, the library acting as a cultural center, and a nature center as part of the Matanzas Pass Wilderness Preserve. Bay Oaks recreation center could expand its activities to include retirees and provide more intergenerational programs, becoming a focal point for the whole community. A public swimming pool would be an asset, providing additional intergenerational recreational activities. Bowditch Point can be better utilized by increasing its accessibility by trolley, tram, and water taxi service. Island circulation and accessibility to its assets such as Matanzas Harbor sites and visits to the Long Estate and Mound Key could be enhanced by a water taxi system.

Participants emphasized the importance of having clear, understandable development regulations and a process that is efficient, fair, and predictable. In addition, clear guidelines should be provided for what can be done seaward of the new CCCL, and regulations should be friendlier to reconstruction of buildings before, not just after, natural disasters.

Participants also emphasized the importance of involving the wider community, including winter residents and local business people who live off the island, in active participation in decision-making and civic life.

Some strategies and additional thoughts that were suggested (including those from members of the public in attendance) included:

Participants discussed the question of how to balance the economic activity created by tourism while preserving the small-town livability of today's Fort Myers Beach. Improving the quality of tourists' visits, with particular emphasis on nature-based tourism, was seen as the means to attract the people (both tourists and residents) who will help preserve the ambience and quality of life on Fort Myers Beach.





    1. Maintain the stability of our residential neighborhoods
    2. Build confidence that the town's rules will be enforced evenly and reliably
    3. Fix up many of our run-down buildings
    4. Hope that our kids will be able to afford to live here!
    5. Provide nearby housing for those who work in the island's businesses
    1. Maintain and promote the "usability" of the beachfront (warm water, enough sand, no dangerous waves, absence of conflict with sports activities)
    2. Keep the waters safe, clean, and accessible for boaters and swimmers
    3. Maintain the public's access and views of the waterfront
    1. Build on our strong civic center (library/school/preserve/park complex)
    2. Add more cultural activities such as music, films, nature center
    3. Provide more on-island activities for kids
    4. Provide more trees and amenities in public spaces
    1. Take steps to reduce traffic congestion during the peak season
    2. Provide better continuity of bike paths and sidewalks
    3. Improve public transportation (trolley, water-taxi, airport bus) to move people around without worsening the parking situation
    4. Fix drainage problems that cause high tides to back up onto roads
    5. Will we be able to evacuate safely when we need to?
    1. Capitalize on our tourist economy without sacrificing our residential communities
    2. Build on the CRA's successful community involvement in improving Times Square
    3. Continue efforts to spread out the tourist season to avoid peak congestion and to help businesses survive during slower season
    4. Provide an "environmental focus" for tourists (Long estate, Mound Key, Bowditch)
    5. Decide to what degree we want to be the "watering hole" for all of Lee County
    6. Make the town more "friendly" to foreign tourists
    1. Can more growth can be handled by our water, sewer, and road systems?
    2. Don't let growth overwhelm the residential character of most of the island
    1. Simplify permitting of remodeling and new buildings
    2. Keep government decision-making close to the people affected
    3. Improve communications with outside business interests
    4. Encourage smaller locally-owned and -run businesses
    5. Involve part-time residents in more community affairs
    6. Allow buildings to be strengthened before a storm, not just after