Fort Myers Beach Discusses Comprehensive Plan Amidst Zoning Concerns

In a recent meeting, the Fort Myers Beach Local Planning Agency tackled significant amendments to the town’s comprehensive plan and Land Development Code, focusing on a range of issues from zoning classifications to the preservation of the island’s character. The agency’s deliberations covered the impact of the proposed changes on traffic flow, growth patterns, existing commercial properties, and short-term rentals. Particularly, the integration of resilience measures to face future storms, modification of the future land use map, and concerns over property rights versus development restrictions emerged as focal points of the discussion.

The agency delved into the complexities of the comprehensive plan, specifically addressing proposed changes that would potentially alter the land use designation for marinas and the implications for bridge adequacy. This discussion was part of a broader debate on how to maintain the unique character of Fort Myers Beach while accommodating growth and development. Adjustments were made in response to feedback from the community, including scaling back certain density levels and revising transportation elements to better manage traffic flow and preserve the island’s identity.

An issue was the regulation of Airbnb and other short-term rentals, which are seen to be contributing to high rental prices. The agency examined the correlation between these rental platforms and the local housing market, exploring the necessity of regulating the rental market to preserve neighborhood character without stifling economic growth.

The conversation on zoning classifications highlighted the Pedestrian Commercial district, where the agency weighed appropriate commercial development intensity levels. Members discussed whether to maintain a 1.5 threshold or to accommodate developers’ preferences for higher intensity levels. The debate extended to the classification of the Coconut and MH Civic districts, with concerns about retaining pre-existing density and the potential for commercial development.

Adjustments to the Center Island district boundaries aimed to address concerns about commercial development and the preservation of single-family homes. In the Theater Arts and mixed-use district, the agency debated building height appropriateness and considerations for future development. Furthermore, the designation of specific properties, such as the Women’s Club and the former Car Wash property, sparked a debate on whether to classify them as an Activity Center.

The meeting also featured discussions on the IDE Redevelopment, including whether to include it on the zoning map as it was previously designated as commercial resort on the old zoning map. The agency considered the implications of allowing artisanal retail and discussed the potential changes to the neighborhood’s original state due to commercial encroachment.

The agency discussed the Land Development Code’s language regarding commercial plan development and the limitations it imposes. There was a disagreement about the language related to the number of units per acre and the requirement for affordable housing. Concerns were voiced about the policy on vacating public right of ways to water bodies, with suggestions for language that ensures replacement and public benefit.

The agency discussed the potential impact of density restrictions on property rights, exploring the inclusion of commercial activities in certain areas and mixed-use zoning considerations. There was a review of existing comp plan policies, with a focus on clarifying specific areas and designations within the district.

Another discussion point was the FEMA requirements for elevation above the 100-year flood plain, the need for resilience in design, and the alignment with federal standards and the Lee County appraiser’s recommendations. Topics such as flood proofing of commercial buildings, the proposed arts and theater district, and the importance of maintaining beach access points were also debated.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.
Dan Allers
Planning Board Officials:
Douglas Eckmann, Jane Plummer, Don Sudduth, Anita Cereceda, Patrick Vanasse, James Boan

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