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Town council bans reservations at lodging businesses

March 30, 2020
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

During a meeting filled with technical glitches, no copies of the resolutions being discussed posted to the town's website, the town council held their emergency meeting on a computer app called Zoom and banned all reservations at lodging establishments for 90 days.

With the Lee County Board of Commissioners having rejected a plea from Fort Myers Beach Mayor Anita Cereceda to shut down all non-essential businesses and issue a countywide shelter-in-place order, the Fort Myers Beach Council voted on a declaration that recommends residents to limit travel to essential needs. The original resolution described it as an order but that language was removed at the request of Councilmember Rexann Hosafros. Cereceda described the resolution as an "aspiration."

Members of the town council said they didn't have copies of the rules of procedure at the start of the meeting. The first hour of the meeting was filled with technical glitches as the meeting was held over the internet with members of the council discussing the matters from their home, and input from the public difficult to decipher or not heard at all.

Cereceda said the latest actions by the town council were in light of the actions taken by Gov. Ron DeSantis to suspend new vacation rentals and the actions by the city of Sanibel to ban commercial lodging.

The restrictions on lodging were explained as: "now therefore it is ordered all parties engaged in the rental of public lodging establishments" as transient or non-transient lodging, any time shares, shall cancel all existing reservations" and be prohibited from making new reservations. Any guests who have checked in may remain for the duration of their current reservation. Closure order includes single-family homes, multi-family homes and any public accommodations, inns and hotels. No copy of the resolution was immediately available at the town's website.

The stay-at-home declaration recommends residents to limit travel to essential needs. The original wording described a stay-at-home declaration as an order but that language was removed at the urging of Councilmember Rexann Hosafros. The Discussion of terms are vague as to whether council is urging people to stay home. "This is aspirational in nature," Town Attorney John Herin Jr. said. "The council may have to take more extreme action," he said. Herin said the council is just urging people to shelter in place. Councilmember Rexann Hosafros warns against language being too restrictive. Hosafros also called for opening up the beach for two hours in the early morning but that received no support.

The Fort Myers Beach Observer questioned whether the emergency meeting had been noticed to media outlets since no notice was provided. No answer was immediately provided by town officials.

No copies of the declarations were available on the town's website at the time of the meeting though Attorney John Herin Jr. said he emailed copies of the proposed resolutions to the councilmembers in the morning.



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