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Town solicits extra help for TPI application review

August 9, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Planning consultant Bill Spikowski is elbows-deep into the Fort Myers Beach land development code.

Even though he was the one who helped write the town's code, it's still a time consuming process to check and cross check the town's regulations.

The Town of Fort Myers Beach has brought Spikowski on board to help review the TPI Hospitality application for the Times Square Resort project.

The application was turned in March 30; it was reviewed and sent back with questions before resubmittal. Now, Spikowski is examining just how this project fits - or doesn't - within the codes.

"They asked me to do a technical evaluation of the rezoning proposal," he said. "The question isn't, should they approve it, it's can they approve it."

TPI seeks to rezone its properties, which collectively are about 6 acres, at the base of Matanzas Pass Bridge to commercial planned development so that it can request several deviations.

Since Spikowski helped write the LDC, he's intimately familiar with the town's regulations.

"The problem is, the staff that we have is not prepared to put everything else aside and be able to exclusively focus on a project of this magnitude," said Town Manager Roger Hernstadt. "In this case, it makes sense to assign someone to focus on it."

Spikowski's contract with the town is not to exceed $20,000 for his consultation on this project.

"It's the most complicated case I've ever worked on," he said.

The TPI project consists of three main buildings, a business center with a meeting room next to the Lighthouse Resort Inn; the resort hotel, where Helmerich Plaza is now; and the restaurant and bar with hotel rooms on the top floor, on the Gulf side of Estero Boulevard. There's also the water park feature and two proposed pedestrian crosswalks over Fifth Street and Estero.

Further muddling the waters is the project's location in the redevelopment district of the town's LDC, which has goals for walkability, public access and other requirements. There's also the close quarters of other buildings to contend with.

"Everything's up against each other," Spikowski said. "It's like a new building going in downtown Fort Myers."

Spikowski's already had the application under his eye for a couple weeks. He has to comb through the LDC to find any and all passages relating to these specific properties and compare to what the application asks for so the town can see what is allowed, what might not be allowed or what could be in violation.

"The code is a 400-page beast of cross references," Spikowski said. "Even though it's my own work, it's been a lot of years since I've looked at it."

When he's finished, he'll send his findings to the town and the process will continue - more staff review, a Local Planning Agency meeting, and at least two public hearings before Town Council casts its votes.

There's no set timeline, though.

"We're not going to set any deadlines. We want him to do a thorough job," Hernstadt said. "He's been given the information and it's in his hands."



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