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San Carlos Island residents staunch against Bay Harbour Marina

May 3, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The 45-foot decrease in maximum height and the shift of resident units along the canal wasn't enough to convince some San Carlos Island residents to support the re-designed Bay Harbour Marina project.

Members of the Beach Area Civic Association met Tuesday, April 25, with project developer Jack Mayher to question the changes and the status of the project.

The Bay Harbour Marina project is a mixed-use development project slated for a 7.58-acre parcel on Main Street and Oak Street, currently occupied by Southern Comfort Storage. Mayher has been working on the project since 2015; in 2016, the Lee County Local Planning Agency and Hearing Examiner both recommended denial due to the intensity of the comprehensive plan amendment and rezoning requests. In November 2016, the project was remanded back to Lee County staff at the request of the developer to make adjustments so the development might be more palatable.

Article Photos

Developer Jack Mayher defends Bay Harbour Marina Village against a civil, but pointed, series of questions from San Carlos Island residents.

But the revisions didn't change the intensity or density of the project, and some San Carlos Island residents promise to continue to oppose Mayher's plan. A bone of contention in the project is a planned 500-space parking garage. Part of the garage would serve the project's various facilities, such as the 113 residential units, marina and 30,000 square feet of commercial space. Mayher plans for the other part to be paid parking for beachgoers.

"We don't want to be a parking lot," island resident Nick White said. "If you leave it in, we'll keep fighting until we're dead."

Mayher said "I just don't get" the opposition to the parking lot, noting that the Bonita Bill's establishment at which the meeting was held never had enough parking and that many people ended up parking illegally to go to the restaurants on Fisherman's Wharf.

He also believes that his garage could help alleviate some traffic congestion during season, as he'd be taking cars off the road. People could walk from his garage, over the bridge, and to the beach.

But other residents said his project is only going to make traffic worse on Main Street, a narrow two-lane road that will fail by 2020, with or without Mayher's project, according to the county staff's finding of facts during the Lee County Hearing Examiner's hearing last year.

Per state statutes, the Lee County Board of Commissioners cannot deny a project based on the existing poor traffic infrastructure.

Mayher, who lives on the south end of Estero Island, said he sympathized with San Carlos residents with the traffic, but didn't understand "butting heads" when parking on San Carlos Island might help Fort Myers Beach traffic.

"I fight it all the time, on and off the island. It's been like that forever," he said.

Not every resident is against Mayher's development; one woman at the BACA meeting said she'd like to see "something" built on the property, which she said now looks like a junk yard. Other residents said they liked Mayher's original proposal, also known as the Compass Rose project, which was proposed many years ago. That project would have restored a working marina and service businesses to the site, but the project went bankrupt during the Great Recession.

The original Bay Harbour application included a comprehensive plan amendment to change the designated land use from industrial development and suburban to central urban and an approval to rezone the property from mobile home residential, light and marine industrial, and commercial to mixed use planned development.

In the revision, the applicant provides an alternative option to a comprehensive plan amendment from industrial to central urban. As a different approach to the same project, the applicant proffers an amendment from industrial to Destination Resort Mixed Use Water Dependent (DRMUWD) future land use. According to the goals of the Lee Plan, this use can be applied to an area "characterized as predominantly impacted by a declining water dependent industry like commercial fishing."

While central urban focuses on the zoning of the property, the DRMUWD "clearly lays out the development parameters" and allows the county to review specific development details, the application states.

Mayher pointed out that unlike Central Urban, a waterside resort development has already been approved on San Carlos Island through the EbbTide project.

The DRMUWD option proposes amendments to the Lee Plan text, which means it will not be a small-scale amendment as the central urban option was, so it will have to be transferred to the state for approval.

However, county staff responded to the revised application in a letter dated April 18, which in short said the developer had to pick one or the other, central urban or DRMUWD, as the county would not review an application with an alternative amendment. Should Mayher opt for the DRMUWD, he'd have to submit a whole new application and pay all the fees related to a new application.

Mayher did not indicate which he was going to side with at the BACA meeting. However, he did tell residents in a tongue-and-cheek manner that if they didn't like the parking garage or the "workforce" housing aspects of his project as it stands, "then we can put up 125 hotel rooms instead."

Whichever comp plan amendment Mayher chooses, it will still have to go through the LPA again, during which process residents will be able to attend and voice their opinions.

"We'll be there, Jack," White promised.



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