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Town wins Hercules Drive pier case

Construction gets green light

January 9, 2019
By JESSE MEADOWS ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Residents on Hercules Drive will finally get a new public pier, after a court case delayed its construction for more than a year.

An administrative law judge has ruled that the proposed 49-foot dock would not pose a navigational hazard.

That was the basis for three Hercules residents' appeal against the permitting of a new public pier by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The old pier, which was in place since at least 1944, was torn down in 2015 along with a pier on Coconut Drive.

The two neighborhoods petitioned to have their piers rebuilt, and the Town agreed in 2016.

"Our residents, they rallied. We had a good turn out for every meeting. We even had a few people from the next street over come and support us," said Marti Campbell, who organized much of the campaign.

The FDEP notified the Town in July of 2017 that they were permitted to rebuild the pier.

The plan was set, the money was allocated, and the permits were granted, but in March last year, Michael Steck and Allen and Cynthia Shanosky filed a joint petition against the pier's permitting.

They own the bayfront properties that would flank the proposed pier to the north and south.

They alleged that the dock would pose a navigational hazard for their boats when trying to access their private docks, and cited concerns about late-night noise and parties, according to court documents.

Campbell, who owns three properties on Hercules, said the lack of a public pier negatively affected property values on the street.

"Many people bought houses on this street because of having the access to the bay," she said.

The plaintiffs offered the Town a compromise: shorten the pier to 25 feet, and they would drop the case.

But when presented with the offer at a public meeting, Hercules residents unanimously denied it.

"It wouldn't be far enough out to fish... we said absolutely not," Campbell said.

The case was heard last August, and Administrative Law Judge D.R. Alexander upheld the FDEP's decision to permit, filing a final order on Jan 2.

"The Town was confident that the FDEP correctly issued a permit. We are pleased that the FDEP attorney vigorously defended their action of permit issuance and was well supported in their legal arguments by the town attorney, culminating in a positive hearing result," said Town Manager Roger Hernstadt in an e-mail.

Town staff is currently working with the contractor, Coastal Engineering Consultants, to order materials for the new pier, according to Public Works Director Chelsea O'Riley.

Residents look forward to casting a line off the pier again sometime this year.

"It was just such a neat place. They had a picnic table out there, you could go down there and watch the birds going by, and the manatees and dolphins out in the bay," said Campbell.

Resident Mitch Pacyna put together a collage of all his memories on the old Hercules pier, and he looks forward to making new ones.

"You probably won't know how excited we are to finally get it back," he said.

"The judge's ruling is fair and most appreciated. Hercules Drive residents, especially Marti Campbell and Sharon McKay, have worked hard with a good deal of patience to have the Hercules pier rebuilt. The pier has been a popular place to go fishing, picnic, and enjoy Estero Bay boating activity. Thankfully, it will provide all of that enjoyment once again after it is rebuilt," wrote resident Penny Jarrett in an e-mail.

Campbell thinks its a win for the community at large, as there aren't many public places on the island where people can access the bay.

"It's an asset that is being restored that should never have been taken away," she said.



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