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Town council split on Connecticut Street

May 9, 2018
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

A possible modification to the controversial sidewalk plan for Connecticut Street nudged forward Monday.

The Connecticut Street Multi Modal Improvement Project again brought debate among Fort Myers Beach Town Council members who discussed a resolution to direct the town manager to send a letter to the Metropolitan Planning Organization to request a modification of the scope of the project.

During an April 4 meeting, the consensus was to limit the sidewalk to the south side of Connecticut Street from Estero Boulevard to the intersection of Shell Mound Boulevard and Connecticut Street, and not construct the sidewalk to the bay, as proposed.

Council member Bruce Butcher agreed that a sidewalk would be nicer, though the others disagreed, including Council member Dennis Boback who doesn't want a sidewalk in front of his yard.

Council member Anita Cereceda, however, said the project, which has been in the works since 2012, needs to be done as it was intended, or it isn't worth doing.

"Sidewalks have been on the docket for many years. To do half of what it intended is shortsighted. We must have a complete pathway to the Mound House," Cereceda said. "To base a decision on a few residents' complaints is bad governing. If you can't do the entire project, don't do it at all."

The motion passed 3-2.

Cereceda also dissented on an ordinance providing for the establishment of boards, which would give preference to property owners and residents for the area.

Cereceda was concerned that would mean putting someone on a board who isn't qualified but lives in town rather than a specialist who lives elsewhere.

"We're limiting options on having expertise in specific areas like marine resources. You make it subjective to who is in town as opposed to a specialist. I won't support this," Cereceda said.

Mayor Tracey Gore said that a resident or property owner should get preference over someone who is not. A majority agreed, and the motion passed 4-1.

Town Council also agree to hold its 2019 elections at the same time as other municipalities in Lee County. This would move the election from March 12 to March 5, 2019.

The town, by changing the election date, will be able to eliminate voter confusion and benefit from cost sharing obtained by conducting its election with other municipalities, officials said. The measure passed unanimously.

Also passing unanimously was a vote of confidence for Town Manager Roger Hernstadt, who was given the results of his evaluation. All were impressed by his first full year as town manager.

"He has been a great asset to this town. We're fortunate to have this kind of leadership and expertise," said Vice Mayor Joanne Shamp. "This has resulted in financial stability. He is fully committed to this town."

Boback said he has taken the town to the next level, while Gore, who wasn't sure at first, said she was all aboard and suggested a 5 percent raise, which was supported by the rest of council.

The council was undecided on one issue regarding Fun Rentals and its outdoor display of merchandise in the right of way.

Fun Rentals wanted to license 474 square feet of right-of-way abutting its business.

Cereceda said the bikes were for display, not for parking, so she sought to deny the motion. She said that rights of way for commercial use that doesn't help traffic should be leased for a fee.

Eventually, the motion was sent to MMP for a meeting on June 14.



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