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Margaritaville Resort and Beach Club extends olive branch

June 26, 2019
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

To the editor:

Fort Myers Beach, we have been pretty quiet on the public front while the legal process works itself out. However, during the past few weeks there has been a surge of inaccurate information distributed about the project. For that reason, we would like to share a bit from our perspective.

I don't know Bob Conidaris and would enjoy the opportunity to make acquaintance with him. What I have heard is he is a decent man, has a great family, is a good employer and has contributed to wonderful causes on our island. Some of the things I would like to share with him is that we, too, are decent people who live here and enjoy helping our community when we can. We also have family making their homes here and looking forward to their future lives on FMB. I think Bob and I would get along famously if we extended the olive branch and got to know each other.

Much as Bob forever changed our island when he built the Lani Kai, we intend to do the same with Margaritaville, in very positive ways. My understanding is that Bob doesn't want change; I can understand his motivations for that. However, the residents of Fort Myers Beach have resoundingly spoken and do want this change. Much as we wish at times that the world would stop and stand still, it never does and we always evolve, as has FMB.

Right now, we feel the biggest victims of this legal conflict are the people that live here, work here and visit here, and they have no control over this, only Bob does. Yes, this legal challenge is terribly hurtful to the TPI family of employee/owners. However, it is the very people that the challenge wants to to help that, ironically, are being hurt the most.

I will offer up some information on the biggest point of contention that has been raised in opposition to the Margaritaville project, that being DENSITY. Bob promotes that TPI received 300% of the density it was allowed by code. There exists in FMB code, the ability to calculate density in different ways. The one that Bob uses assumes that the 7-1/2 acres of land we own, is undeveloped and was never developed; obviously this is not the case. Our property is located in the commercial downtown district where the maximum density on the island may be achieved per our code. Using the approach to density of redeveloping these commercial properties, we come up with just under 200 hotel units of density "by right." By right means the code allows for this without any need to request it. We feel our 254 hotel units, that were approved by the Town, were justified because of what we will be delivering to the Community in Public Benefits. We define Public Benefits as those things that you do that exceed the Town's requirement. The below list encompasses the larger benefits, as measured by their costs to us as developers to provide them. We feel that our initial request for 290 hotel units were justified; after days of hearings before the Town Council, they decided 254 rooms were justified. These numbers in no way imply that we received approval for 300% of the density we were allowed "by right". In fact, it implies we received only 1/10th of what has been claimed.

The primary Public Benefits the Town will receive from the Margaritaville Resort, that the Town Council determined justified the additional hotel units, are noted below and are 100% funded by the developer:

- Building Rights on beachside were mostly transferred to the bay side of Estero Boulevard and those forfeited rights are memorialized in perpetuity. The costs associated with this are lower room rental rates than if the units were on the beach. This is by far this single most costly Public Benefit being born by the developer.

- The transfer of building rights result in an approximate 375-foot no-building view corridor of the Gulf along Estero Boulevard.

- Expanding Canal Street incorporating beach access sidewalk and approximately 30 public parking stalls generating revenue for the Town, built by and gifted by TPI

- Donating an additional public beach access

- Eliminate seven vehicle access points along Estero Boulevard and locating service vehicle deliveries off street underneath the resort, accessed from Fifth Street.

- Build and donate a public pedestrian walkway across Estero Boulevard to include elevators, staircases and public restrooms

- Donate property at the base of the Sky Bridge that is in an integral location to allow for roadway improvements to enhance traffic flow and pedestrian and bike safety

- Provide land for stoplights at the intersection of Crescent Street and Estero Boulevard and widen Estero Boulevard to allow for a turning lane onto Crescent

- Replace and improve public sidewalks and landscape them

We have no intention of antagonizing Bob, by providing our perspective here, in fact, quite the opposite. It is our hope that Bob will read this and at least consider that the people he is listening to, "may" not be supplying him the facts and "may" be taking selfish advantage of him. Lastly, and most important, is that we would hope Bob would consider the will of the FMB Community and Town Council in their overwhelming desire for the Margaritaville Resort to get underway immediately.

Bob, I extend out to you, a heartfelt olive branch to meet with me and see if we can find a way for everyone to be winners.

Tom Torgerson

Fort Myers Beach



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