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Public restrooms split council

January 22, 2020
By NATHAN MAYBERG ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Adding more restrooms on Fort Myers Beach makes sense to a majority of the town council but figuring out where they should go is another story.

Councilmember Joanne Shamp spoke out in opposition to a proposal to build a public restroom at the Palm Avenue Beach access during a debate at this month's council workshop. Shamp argued against putting public restrooms close to residential neighborhoods.

The council discussed the matter at a workshop Jan. 15 and was scheduled to take up the subject of restrooms again at its Jan. 21 meeting. According to its agenda packet, there are two options being considered which would be funded with Lee County Tourism Development Council revenue. The first would be for a trailer with three bathrooms at an estimated cost of $100,000. The second option would be for a building with three restrooms which have a cost of approximately $300,000.

"Here we go again with public bathrooms on public streets and rights-of-way," Shamp said.

Shamp said the proposal would be too close to residences and cited statutes which she says prohibit public restrooms as currently proposed.

Shamp said more acceptable sites for a restroom include the Post Office, Publix, Center Street and under Matanzas Pass Bridge. TPI also will be providing one, she said.

Shamp said the town's new parking app for parking will also direct visitors to where the public restrooms are.

"I want more bathrooms," Councilmember Rexann Hosafros said.

Hosafros said she hasn't fielded complaints about the proposed location before. Hosafros said she disagreed with Shamp that the restrooms are not allowed. She said she wants "the simplest option," which is bathrooms, without showers. The board did agree that it doesn't want to see showers with the bathrooms.

"I'm all for adding additional bathrooms where it makes sense," Vice Mayor Ray Murphy said. "I think there is a need for that."

However, Murphy added that he hasn't heard a "groundswell" from people demanding the public bathrooms.

"It's not that important."

Councilmember Bruce Butcher said he supported new restrooms though he thought keeping them on the beach side was of greater concern.

"Having them on the bay side of Estero to me are not nearly as important as having them on the beach side of Estero and to have people running across Estero to hurry to the restroom and get across Estero and then go a long ways is not real convenient either," Butcher said.

Butcher said he doesn't recommend public bathrooms in residential neighborhoods.

Mayor Anita Cereceda said this was a hot issue in the past when multiple sites for restrooms were proposed. She said the Palm Avenue Beach access is in the commercial corridor which is highly trafficked and hasn't had complaints in the past.

"We shouldn't be doing this," Shamp said.

The previous town council rejected the idea, she said. She said that trailers are not allowed in the zone where they are proposed.

"I'm not saying bathrooms aren't important."

The council discussed the issue last year at which time Hosafros said some businesses are complaining that people are coming in just to use the bathroom.



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