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Planning is in power

Town Council thinks ahead to big-picture planning

May 10, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Comprehensive planning is on the minds of the Fort Myers Beach Town Council.

Driven by Council Member Joanne Shamp, who has oft professed her affection for the goals of the Comprehensive Plan, the council is planning a large strategic planning session in June.

And based on discussions at the May 4 workshop, the topics for the planning meeting will be hefty.

Shamp revealed her vision for Bayfront Park - formerly Fountain Park - at the end of Old San Carlos Road. The comprehensive plan envisions this area as something similar to Times Square, a destination area encouraging pedestrian travel between the beach and the bay.

Shamp wants to develop a plan to transform the park into a maritime military outdoor museum, celebrating the beach's history throughout the years, including both military aspects and the working waterfront.

"Why don't we do a five to seven year plan to make it what was envisioned," Shamp said.

Vice Mayor Tracey Gore suggested a veterans memorial for the former fountain area last year and is still hoping to make it a reality. She wants the focus to stay on the memorial.

"I think the veterans memorial should be the single focus," Gore said. "I don't want it to be an afterthought."

Gore also said she thought that "commercial was taking over" when Shamp talked about a public plaza, although the current property is already a public park.

"I want to make sure we don't lose our culture by celebrating it and memorializing it," Shamp said.

Big-picture thinking was applied to the council's direction to staff in relation to the vendor selection for the Times Square informational booth, too.

The information service was left vacant after the Chamber of Commerce pulled the Roxie mobile unit from the square. The town received two applicants to fill the space, Tours and Information, Inc., and Moss Marine. The two vendors made presentations at the May 1 council meeting, but the members tabled a vote until they could discuss at length what they wanted in Times Square at the Thursday workshop.

Council Member Anita Cereceda has said she believes the info booth to be a sensitive issue, as the town is leasing "valuable" real estate to a business without that business having to go through the same processes as other businesses on the island. An information booth is also bringing many more businesses into the public eye at Times Square as it promotes the island's tours, restaurants, hoteliers, etc.

"Lets not pretend it's an info booth," Mayor Dennis Boback said. "It's a business with info as a side thing."

Moss Marine owner George Freeland estimated his vision for his booth would cost him about $150,000 annually to operate, as he planned to hire new staff and have top-of-the-line equipment, such as touch screens. He also said he'd pay $24,000 to the town. Jessica Duncan and Debbie Dean, owners of Tours and Information, had run the Times Square spot previously, before the Chamber of Commerce's "Roxie," and said it would not be that expensive, but could only pay $4,000. Their booth would be the same as before - 64 square feet with brochures available 24/7.

Council members debated the pros and cons of each proposal, as one would be run by and already-existing business and the other's business would be to promote other businesses.

Several members said the ownership didn't really matter, however, because both proposals' goals were the same: to promote businesses and sell products like rentals and stays.

Gore sided with Tours & Information, as they had the spot before, and she felt they had been mistreated by the council in the past when the council chose to go a different direction. The other members however were encouraged by Freeland's modern angle and larger payment.

"I like the approach of electronics, that's what kids do these days. Parents will say go over there and figure it out for me," Council Member Bruce Butcher said.

Since it was a workshop, no vote was taken. Council directed staff to follow up with Freeland, and a deciding vote will be cast at the next meeting.

In June, the council will hold a day-long strategic planning session similar to the one performed by the Mound House staff and stakeholders in the fall. This meeting will be presided over by a moderator who will help guide the conversation and compile the day's discussions into a report.



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