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New buildings proposed for Bay Oaks, ordinance hearing continued

February 6, 2020
By NATHAN MAYBERG ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Calling the current campus "inadequate and quite frankly obsolete," Bay Oaks Recreational Campus Advisory Board Chair Betty Simpson introduced a proposal from the committee to the Fort Myers Beach Council Feb. 3 which calls for the construction of two new buildings.

While the broad outline was short on specifics and cost estimates, Simpson said surveys showed that the age of the building and changing demographics of the area led to the committee's decision to seek an overhaul of the property.

The recommendation calls for two new buildings: a community center and athletic center.

"Our big thing was to have the location of that community center to be in a location everybody would see," Simpson said.

Simpson said the committee discussed the construction of a state-of-the-art three-story glass building with underground parking. Part of the building will be used as a lobby with community rooms, for storage and offices, she said.

"A strong visual," is important to the committee so that "you would certainly see it" in the day and night. "We want a multi-purpose facility," Simpson said.

A new gymnasium would be built on the small field next to the pool, Simpson said. The baseball field would be relocated. She said diagrams are still being finalized. The committee also would like to build an amphitheater and expand the walking trail.

Simpson said further details will depend on the advice of professionals. "We are trying to create a healthy lifestyle and a sense of community on Fort Myers Beach."

Town of Fort Myers Beach Manager Roger Hernstadt said a consultant hired by the town will be making a further presentation on the subject Feb. 6 at the town council's workshop meeting.

Vice Mayor Ray Murphy said he is "thankful" that the town agreed to put away "a little bit of a nest egg for these future plans. It sounds like we are going to need it."

Councilmember Bruce Butcher said "this will need a lot of money I imagine." He believes a partnership with the school and county on the project would ne necessary.

Mayor Anita Cereceda agreed with the need for such a partnership and said the town "did the right thing by setting aside capital funds" for the project."

Right-of-way ordinance

A public hearing on the ordinance proposed by the council which would change the way the town vacates public property and set the parameters for the way the town will give up town property on Canal Street to TPI for the construction of Margaritaville, was continued to the council's next meeting Feb. 18 over concerns expressed by Councilmember Joanne Shamp.

Chris Patton, who is fighting the town on its approval for Margaritaville, was the lone public speaker on the ordinance Monday. Patton mostly opposed the way the proposed ordinance would have limited notice to neighbors from 500 feet away to 300 feet away, though Cereceda said the council has agreed to reverse the proposed change in notice in the ordinance and will maintain the notice at 500 feet.

Patton's lawsuit also alleges that the town is not allowed by state law to vacate its public rights-of-way for private purposes and continued to voice that objection Monday.

Town attorney John Herin Jr. said the town "is ultimately deciding as any other property owner whether or not you wish to dispose of, for lack of better description, surplus property, or not. Do you need it for future development or do you not?"

Shamp's concern about a potential loss of beach access from the ends of streets where right-of-ways would be vacated led to the board continuing its hearing.

Shamp also said that vacating town rights-of-way need to have reciprocal public benefits for her to support the ordinance change.



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