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Town Council candidate question of the week

March 4, 2020
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Fort Myers Beach voters will fill three town council seats on Tuesday, March 17. Seven candidates are seeking three available seats on the five-member elected board. The top three vote getters will fill seats to be vacated by Mayor Anita Cereceda and Councilmember Joanne Shamp, who are not running, as well as the seat currently held by Councilmember Butcher, who is seeking re-election. Voters will also decide whether the terms should be three-year terms or four-year terms. In addition, voters will be asked to decide if the town should change its elections from March to November, which would make these seats approximately eight months longer than a normal term.

Q: Do you support the proposed 298-foot dune walkover adjacent to the Little Estero Island Critical Wildlife Area that has been rejected by the town council? Would you oppose the walkover in litigation brought by the applicants? What kind of importance do you place on the Little Estero Island Critical Wildlife Area?

Dan Allers

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As an individual, I believe society has a responsibility to protect our fragile eco-systems. As an elected official, I would be required to abide by existing statutes, assess all available information and make an informed decision in the best overall interest of the town and its residents. In this particular case the state issued permits and the town had the right to approve or deny a special exemption based on our code. Should this case go on to litigation, I would want to seek the advice of legal experts to determine our potential for a win and the financial impact on our residents before I would vote on what action to take.

Jim Atterholt

I am blessed to live right on the Critical Wildlife Area (CWA) in the Bermuda Dunes Condos and have a deep affection and appreciation for this preserve. I currently volunteer to serve the town as a member of the Local Planning Agency (LPA). A few months back we voted 7-0 in favor of the applicants. I did not casually dismiss the environmental concerns that have been raised. I was concerned and continue to be concerned that the applicants have information that could lead to the dissolution of the CWA due to potential procedural errors in its formation. As this now heads to litigation, I am concerned that the town has won the battle but may lose the war when it comes to protecting the CWA.

Robert "Bob" Burandt

At this time I do not support the 298-foot dune walkover but would entertain listening to more information. For example, who owns the land where the walkover is proposed? I have heard various versions of who owns the land, which might be crucial in a lawsuit which I understand has been threatened. Second, has anyone else been granted an exception to build a similar bridge and who will pay for replacement or repair? Will the structure be insured against personal injuries and who will be responsible for damages if someone gets hurt? Will it be open to the public? If so it will have to be handicapped accessible. It would also have to meet the other LDC conditions for exceptions.

Bruce Butcher (Incumbent)

As a member of council I voted for allowing the walkover based on the merits and facts presented relative to our ordinances. Seven of seven members of the Local Planning Agency also voted for the special exemption to allow the walkover.

If they choose to litigate I am not sure that the town has an option as review options at the town council level have been exhausted.

Most of the migrating shorebirds nest outside the Critical Wildlife Area. The CWA bans dogs from the area, not sure what else it does other than alert people this is special area. One would think people would respect the area's natural beauty without being told.

Forrest Critser

The dune walkover has become a major sticking point for the Town of Ft Myers Beach. I can without a doubt say I am definitely opposed to the idea of marring our beautiful beach with walkways through the dunes or through the grass or wherever. As regards to litigation that would be the town attorney's responsibility, I am not an attorney.

We as a town are responsibility for the entire seven miles of Fort Myers Beach. Anything or anybody who tries to destroy it, or change its natural beauty would get on my fighting side.

The tourists come to see our beautiful beach and we should do all in our power to preserve our natural wonder.

David Drumm

Litigation of this matter will weigh property rights against the stewardship of our coast. I am strongly on the side of property rights.

This structure might not be an eyesore nor a destructive force against nesting birds.

The next request for exemption -- who can know?

I believe the council voted correctly at this time.

Billy Veach

Dune walkovers are specific, encouraged structures that are designed and intended to protect the primary dune, the most seaward dune with dune vegetation, in areas of high pedestrian traffic. The inconvenient construction on Times Square is an example. The boardwalk that is proposed in not a dune walkover by intent or design. In fact, it ends where a true dune walkover would begin and would focus pedestrian traffic onto the primary dune. They are also claiming a loss of dry beach access that they have never had, since it always involved trespassing. There is a risk that their high-powered lawyers could prevail against the common good and common sense, because every lawsuit has a level of uncertainty. The greater Critical Wildlife Area is worth fighting for.



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