County Signs Deal To Finalize Estero Boulevard Project

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Estero Bay Improvement Association, Inc. – Bay Beach Master Association – has signed an agreement with Lee County for easements clearing the way for the finalization of their portion of the massive reFRESH Fort Myers Beach project. In order for the reFRESH project to succeed, it had to find a way to move massive amounts of stormwater from Estero Boulevard to Estero Bay. Lee County executives say a plan was developed providing the easiest and most cost effective solution.

The agreement encompasses three easements replacing one that the State of Florida had in place since 1957 on the northern portion of the Bay Beach Peninsula. This section of the new easement was the most challenging for the County, designing around existing infrastructure from other outside entities. That section now not only removes water from Estero Boulevard, but also from residences along the Gulf side of the road.

The new southern easement along the EBIA property line leading to Buccaneer Bay contains the County’s largest 48” discharge line. The position of this easement was the most practical location that could accommodate the required 48” discharge. EBIA provided the easement after the County worked to resolve some issues with the northern easement.

The County also wanted to avoid expensive construction costs and long term maintenance issues on the Estero Boulevard stretch of road along the EBIA property. It requested, and was granted, an easement by EBIA allowing a more effective sidewalk and bicycle lane placement. After discussions with EBIA, both parties agreed that the easement should include enough property to allow for a future addition of a Lee Trans bus shelter when needed.

EBIA President Dave Maiser said, “Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais’ team has been professional and easy to work with over the past few years. This segment of the project will bring the town’s system closer to the level of the Bay Beach’s stormwater management system; and our community is pleased we were able to contribute in some way to the County and Town’s efforts.”

Crews installing stone in the center trench drain

Here’s a little history about this situation…

October 30, 2017 a team led by then EBIA President, Tom Taege met with County Manager, Roger Desjarlais and his team to discuss how best to transfer water from Estero Blvd to Estero Bay. This was the first of many meetings that finally culminated in three new easements by EBIA to Lee County in December, 2020. It was deemed a win-win for both parties and the town of Ft. Myers Beach.

The spring of 2016 the Town of Fort Myers Beach initiated an effort to include Bay Beach as part of its Stormwater revenue system without Bay Beach actually being part of their stormwater system. Years of work by Charlie Eck, now VP Stormwater Control, for EBIA and James Costello, EBIA attorney, revealed to FMB the different declarations and rulings by FL Supreme and Appellate Courts, that the town had no right to extract funds from organizations that were not part of their system. Accepting the facts, the town halted its efforts in 2020.

The parcels of land making up the Bay Beach peninsula were acquired through a variety of entities over time and the list of investors included the Kennedy family as well as the Rockefellers, among others. Ultimately, these separate interests were assembled into a succession of entities named Stardial Investment Co.

Although little written information is easily available, Stardial started its development by setting aside a large portion of Bay Beach for a Golf Course to support management of stormwater and the residential development that followed. It also created EBIA in 1976 to handle all the Federal, State and local governmental issues; along with acting as master association management for the community.

EBIA filed for and received a Permit from South Florida Water Management District to manage and control Stormwater on the Bay Beach peninsula, including the Golf Course which Stardial sold for its operation.

In the late ‘90s developers successfully sued the town of Ft. Myers Beach which had set ordinances in place restricting the height of housing structures. Bay Beach developers stated that their development orders were granted by Lee County prior to town’s establishment and were grandfathered in.

The settlement included some concessions by the developers and restrictions on the remainder of the Golf Course property. With time it was no longer financially viable to maintain a Golf Course. The previous owner of the Golf Course was not able to obtain building permits for development; since the lawsuit resolution with the town legally set in place that the Golf Course property could only be Recreational/Green Space. In order to ensure the integrity of the stormwater drainage area; as well as the lawsuit settlement agreement, EBIA purchased the Golf Course property and is currently expanding the recreational facilities on the property.

Stay up to date on the reFRESH Estero project HERE.

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