An old rivalry resurfaced at the town council meeting yesterday when former Fort Myers Beach Mayor Tracey Gore (pictured) attended the meeting to voice her opposition to a zoning change request made by Myerside Hotel owner Beverly Milligan.
Several years ago Milligan, as President of The Estero Island Taxpayers Association, spearheaded an effort to discredit Gore after the former Mayor was caught allegedly discussing the pending Margaritaville litigation at a Fort Myers Beach restaurant with the person who filed the lawsuit against the town, Chris Patton. Dennis Boback, who was on the council at the time, was also at the gathering. Both Gore and Boback were accused of violating Florida’s Sunshine Law. There were pictures and video from the get together which was at The Whale on Fort Myers Beach. Elected officials are prohibited from discussing issues, they may be voting on, in private. Eventually the state ruled Gore and Boback did not violate the law.
Milligan and her husband Rolland have asked the town council to change the zoning for Myerside Resort & Cottages from Residential Conservation to Commercial Planned Development. The reason the owners are asking for the zone change is so they can add a small store and restaurant that serves beer and wine and make other changes that will net them 2 more units, an outdoor Tiki Hut which is already there the ability to sell alcohol, and bring the total number of units on their property to 14. Myerside is located on School street near The Beach School, Bay Oaks and the Library.
The town staff has recommended the council deny the request stating the change is inconsistent with the town’s comprehensive plan, the area is residential and the restaurant and tiki bar, which will serve alcohol, are too close to a school.
Last week the town’s Local Planning Agency unanimously approved the request stating Myerside represents exactly what the town has been trying to preserve, a quaint and unique cottage feel which has been disappearing with the larger hotels.
Former Mayor Dan Hughes, now an LPA member, said this is exactly what the town was trying to accomplish when the Land Development Code was put together after incorporation.
It was standing room only at the council meeting Monday as neighbors surrounding the resort voiced their support for the zone change while others were in opposition.
A last minute curve ball was thrown into the mix when a Lee County School district planner showed up to object to the proposal. There had been no objection from the school district up to this point.
Fort Myers Beach resident Ellen Vaughan spoke in favor of the change calling the town staff’s objection to the plan “small minded legalese.”
Charlie Whitehead, who’s very active in Little League, said having a hotel and a bar feet from where so many people spend most of their time is a bad idea.
Then it was the former Mayor’s turn to object. Tracey Gore said alcohol and children do not mix. “We have one school resource officer at the school which the town has chosen not to help pay for. So we’re going to use that school resource office to watch what’s going on at this new site? There is going to be alcohol.”
Gore told the council that this request cannot be approved because the Land Development Code does not allow it. She repeatedly said to the council you can’t do it.
She went on to say that Beverly and Rolland were gifted a Bed & Breakfast in 2016. “What kills me is nobody is talking about the children. This is where our children go to play. This is the only place we have left. We’ve had to move bus stops several times on this island because of bars. This is our safe place for our children and our families. I’m asking you please don’t disrupt that. They were lucky to get the bed and breakfast. They should be happy they have the bed and breakfast. There are plenty of places for sale on the island if they want a motel.”
It’s important to note that Gore did not mention there are two other locations that have been selling alcohol that are either closer or the same distance from the Beach School now.
In the Sea Grape Plaza both the Island Pancake House and Charros Brothers restaurant serve beer and wine. See the map to the right. The Myerside restaurant is proposed to be close to Estero Boulevard.
A second and final public hearing will be held on the matter at the April 5th town council meeting. At that meeting the council will vote on whether or not they approve the zone change. At the LPA meeting on February 9th, not a single resident objected to the proposed change during their public hearing nor did anyone from the school district show up to object.