Some people on Fort Myers Beach say they do not need any new sand, that their beach has been growing over the years. Others, like residents that live at Leonardo Arms, are in an emergency situation and needed sand months ago.
Fort Myers Beach is a 7-mile island and Mother Nature does not evenly distribute – or take away – even amounts of sand during weather events. That, along with a Critical Wildlife Area involved in a lawsuit over who owns the land in which it sits, and a general distrust of government, has made a planned $32 million beach renourishment project quite complicated.
Coastal Engineering Consultants President Michael Poff (right) did his best to answer all the questions from the community Thursday. He’s been hired to spearhead the project for the town, which needs easements from all the property owners, permits for the project, and money, lots and lots of money.
Some of that money will come from Lee County Tourist Development Council funds, some of it will come from the town and a lot of it will come from the state of Florida. More of it will come from the state of Florida if the Critical Wildlife Area remains in control of the state.
That land is involved in a lawsuit between the state and homeowners Eddie Rood and Kurt Kroemer. Rood and Kroemer believe they have title to that land and are in a lawsuit with the state to prove it. They are fighting the state because the town of Fort Myers Beach refused to approve a special exception for them to build a wooden walkover around the CWA so they have access to the beach. Over time, the CWA has shifted, and now sits directly behind their homes. They say they once had access to the beach and now they do not. They say their homes are worth less without direct access to the beach.
If the state loses the lawsuit, and Rood and Kroemer do own that land, it has a huge financial impact on the beach renourishment project. The state pays 100% of the cost of renourishment on property it owns. If the CWA goes away, the town would need to pick up that expense, pushing the town’s share from $2.3 million to $3.6 million, according to Poff. It’s important to note that if the lawsuit drags on, it could delay work in that area.
Leonardo Arms (left) is not too far from the CWA. Leonardo Arms building 2 President Gene Duffy told Poff, “we are one storm away from devastation. It’s at our front door. We’re going to get wiped out if we’re not first.”
There is also the controversy of the Island Winds condominium area of the beach. Over the years, that beach has grown to the size of three football fields. However, the town wants to designate that area as critically eroding because of a pond that forms every summer from the rain. The town says that pond is dangerous and wants the designation. The residents say leave us alone, we don’t need the government to take care of our land. If the area is designated critically eroding, any renourishment in that area is paid for by the state.
Then, there are the dunes, which not only help beat back weather events, they also provide protection for the turtles. Apparently if you sign an easement, and join the renourishment project, you also agree to installing dune vegetation somewhere along your property. The town council has repeatedly said those that participated in the last beach renourishment project, on the north end of the island, were extremely happy with the dunes they agreed to. Yesterday, we heard from a few of those people, and they were telling a completely different story.
A Gateway Villa representative said the dunes that were installed is the reason their area floods. A Kona Beach Club resident told Poff their parking lot floods, and their dune is now 8 feet tall and they can’t even see the pool behind their building. She said they are underwater in the summer. They said they were promised one thing by the government and that government did not deliver.
The project is not expected to begin until the Summer of 2023 at the earliest. If and when it does begin the entire project should take 6 months.
If you missed the meeting Thursday, you can watch it HERE. Poff promised several more meetings like Thursday’s would be held before the project begins.