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Bay Harbour amendment moves to Lee County Local Planning Agency

January 3, 2018
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

After months of relative quiet on the Bay Harbour Marina Village project, a piece of the development is moving forward.

One of the San Carlos Island project's two proposed comprehensive plan amendments is tentatively scheduled to be heard at the Lee County Local Planning Agency in March 26.

The Bay Harbour project is a mixed-use development that would place residential housing, parking garage, commercial space and a marina on the 7.58-acre land currently occupied by Southern Comfort Storage.

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It needs a comprehensive plan amendment and a rezoning approval to be built, two steps which the developer has asked to be kept together through the county process.

Developer Jack Mayher first applied to the county for a comprehensive amendment to the Lee Plan which would change the land use to "central urban."

The project has been a controversial one on San Carlos Island, with a faction of residents vehemently opposing it during the June 2016 Lee County Hearing Examiner's (HEX) hearing for the rezoning request. In September 2016, the HEX recommended either denial of the project or returning it back to staff level for more alterations, with HEX Laura Belflower saying the project "seeks too much density and too much intensity. It seeks the maximum allowances while not meeting the minimum requirements.". Lee County Commissioners remanded the project back to staff in November 2016.

Early in 2017, the Bay Harbour developer then proposed an alternative amendment to change the land to Destination Resort Mixed Use Water Dependent (DRMUWD), a use already approved on San Carlos Island for the *EbbTide project. However, the developer also kept its central urban amendment on the table and the county staff instructed the developer to choose one or the other to move forward in a letter dated April 18, 2017, although that choice has not been made.

"The applicant has indicated that they would like to keep both applications active while they move forward with the DRMUWD. One of the applications will be withdrawn before the process is finalized," said Tim Engstrom, spokesman for the county.

After back and forth, a Dec. 20 letter from county staff deemed the DRMUWD application sufficient enough to move forward to the LPA, and then the county commission.

The rezoning application is still not ready to move forward. The last insufficiency letter, dated Dec. 17, 2017, outlined a few areas for the developer to be more clear, as well as some inconsistencies in compliance with code.

The final point of the letter states: "Please be advised that the HEX denial/remand recommendation contained very specific issues to be addressed. If those issues are not fully addressed, staff will not be able to support this rezoning request."

The DRMUWD application received a similar comment from staff in July: "The Hearing Examiner report from page 9 to page 37 lists all the reasons this project is not in compliance with the requirements of the LDC for rezoning, as proposed. You have covered very few of them with the design changes. Please either revise the design/density/intensity or provide explanation as to why you believe the revised project is in compliance."

Mayher said he feels he's taken his time with this second amendment and tried to work with opponents to find a middle ground.

Part of the 464-page DRMUWD application included changes to the overall project plan. The height of the condominium tower was cut back from 175 feet to 145 feet; approximately 15 units were moved to townhome style housing along the canal; and the building moved to 35 feet back from Main Street. There's now a "civic space" with tennis courts and other amenities that will be open to the public to use without fee. The townhouse housing provides a residential buffer between Oak Street neighbors and the condominium tower; other "liner" buildings will break up the view of the condo tower/mixed use building, and the condo tower is set back 35 feet, not the minimum required 25 feet, from Main Street. A bike lane and some on-street parking was suggested for Main Street.

However, a DRMUWD technically requires at minimum an 8-acre property. The Bay Harbour site is only 7.58, and the applicant proposes an amendment with the DRMUWD text to admit the decrease in acreage and an increase in density when the additional density is dedicated to workforce housing. Of the 113 residential units proposed, 38 are dedicated to workforce housing.

"We feel we made great strides and we're looking forward to making this transformation San Carlos Island," Mayher said.

While his project has been met with vocal opposition from some concerned about density and traffic impacts on the already congested Main Street, others support what they see as an improvement to the island.

"There will be an economic boom, and it needs it. Our project, EbbTide, Torgerson's, will be fantastic," Mayher said. "We don't need strip clubs and bars on the entrance to Fort Myers Beach."

*Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly described EbbTide as bankrupt. The project is seeking a developer.



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