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Docks, shorelines ordinance update: “Kill it,” council says

June 6, 2018
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Council Member Bruce Butcher started the conversation: "what is it we're trying to do today?"?Changes to the docks and shorelines ordinance came for a second reading at Monday's meeting, and proved to be another ordinance that had spun out of control from the original council direction.

Butcher had spearheaded the original discussion after a property owner built a second dock on their property. Different parts of town code regulate if and how a dock can be built on a natural body of water or a man-made one, i.e. a canal. But the code doesn't allow two docks on one property.

Butcher pointed out that the code had a requirement that the body of water had to have a minimum depth of 3 feet for a dock - a requirement hard to meet with the current state of the town's canals, many of which are overdue to be dredged.

"I said that was crazy, because people can't do that now," Butcher said.

From there, a discussion ensued to look further into the code for other issues.

Council directed staff to look into the code: and it resulted in an ordinance that Butcher said didn't address his original point, anyway.

Fact Box

06.04.18 Meeting Minutes

Dock delay - Council agreed to spend $6,000 to split apart the construction of the Coconut and Hercules Drive docks. The two docks were bid out for construction together, but now two property owners at the end of Hercules have opposed the new dock, and appealed the Department Environmental Protection's permit approval to the town. Now, the Coconut Drive dock can move forward for construction, but the Hercules dock will be delayed until the DEP has made a decision on the appeal.

No on the SRO - The Lee County Sheriff's Office submitted an agreement to the town to split the cost of the School Resource Officer at the Fort Myers Beach Elementary School. It costs a total of $49,598 annually to fund the SRO, so the request was for half the sum. The town denied signing the agreement.

Carousel's first go-round: The property owners of 6230 and 6240 Estero Boulevard, The Carousel Inn, came before the council for the first reading of its master concept plan, which would be a two-phase building plan. The first phase would build a four-unit multi-family structure. The second would demolish the 28-room hotel and replace it with a 8-unit condominium building of 45 feet height above base flood level. Because the project is a build-back allowance, it's allowed to build to that height. The property owners are asking for a deviation to have four floors above flood level, instead of just three, as it will allow them to shrink the footprint of their building and provide a better view corridor. Council Member Anita Cereceda applauded the project, but was unhappy that it could be up to eight years before the entire project is finished. The council voted to move the application to its second hearing, June 18.

"I like this project very much," she said.

The conversation sounded much like the conversation about ordinances brought up for short term rentals and newspaper racks in the past year.

The ordinance's first hearing was in January, after the Local Planning Agency reviewed it twice. Butcher said he thought council had told staff to go back and clean the ordinance up, starting over.

But the ordinance that came back was filled with more changes, such as adding a requirement for handrails and reducing the maximum length of a dock from 300 to 200 feet. Another addition would prohibit permits to repair or improve non-conforming boathouses, those built before 1988, unless the property owner brought the boathouse into compliance.

"What we're trying to do in one regulation is too hard," Butcher said.

The rest of council agreed. Council Member Anita Cereceda wanted to table it to a date uncertain or kill it - and Town Manager Roger Hernstadt said, "kill it."

"We've only had one case that was an issue and we found a work-around," he said. "I can't tell you it's a burning issue and the world will fall off its axis if you don't address it."

Staff was set to meet with members of the marine industry at the end of June, even though the second reading was Monday. Butcher and Council Member Dennis Boback said that meeting should happen before further changes were discussed for the ordinance.

The idea is to make sure any new changes don't conflict with what the industry standards are now, Butcher said, and to make sure "we don't put our foot in our mouth again." One of the proposed changes was to limit a property owner to one dock and two slips, but the town needs to know if that's what fits market demands now.

"Because we butchered it, they can help us understand where we were and where we should be," Butcher said.

After a few public comments, Cereceda thought waterfront property owners should be included in the conversation, too. Boback suggested the town should hold an open public meeting, similar to what had been done with neighborhoods and the stormwater project, so property owners and industry members could come in and have time to speak.

"We're talking about the rights of the homeowner... and you need to make sure the homeowners are included in this whole (thing)," said Arnold Mauser.

Two members of the marine industry also spoke in favor killing the ordinance and reviewing it with the town.

"Thank you for direction you're heading. I hear the words small changes a lot, and these were not small changes," said Brent Stokes of Stokes Marine.



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