Redevelopment: Public Input is Important


(Opinion By Doug Sperin-Smith) It’s a bit ironic that South Seas Resort at the end of Sanibel and Captiva is asking for a full rewrite of the Development Code without a pro-active public dialog process. It is one of the most vulnerable land parcels in the region and has always prided itself on the scale and sense of place compared to more urban resorts. After two major storm events and an expensive acquisition, the new owner now feels they need more density and intensity to improve their business model.

Why do commercial landowners always need more? The best answer is more means more value for them – but what about the community? What about the risk of the next storm?

What about traffic? What about a sense of place? It is a tiresome march with powerful
conversations by special interests with time to lobby our officials.

Fort Myers Beach is in the same position. A consistent pattern of commercial owners asking for more is being lobbied by consultants, owners, and the town’s land planners. Moss Marine, Margaritaville, Beach Baptist Church, Times Square, hotels etc. etc. It will be endless. Southwest Florida is popular and now ripe for the picking.

There is no question our community is experiencing a reset, but where is the public dialog opportunity to discuss options, trade-offs, and incentives for creating the next Fort Myers Beach? How do the residents feel? What about the existing comp plan that has served our needs since incorporation? More intense means more traffic on our fragile vulnerable island.

It seems the biggest need is affordable workforce housing and incentives that have a chance at getting something done. If modest changes to the development code can facilitate this while moderating additional intensity, and building back a sense of community, then we will have been successful. All new development will be stronger, nicer (hopefully) and elevated. More intense land use is a quality that needs to be balanced with community vision.

There are national facilitators with broad experience to help this process- perhaps before we proceed piece-meal with every landowner idea for “more”, we should have a public workshop for input. Community Heart and Soul has a successful model for helping communities through this process and has grants to help a real need.

Our community leaders in the county and the town have an opportunity to be constructive leaders for managing this reset. I hope they do.

Doug Speirn-Smith is from Fort Myers Beach and can be reached directly by e-mail at


  1. I agree with both Doug and Nick. Doug suffered business losses from Ian, one completely gone another heavily damaged. I didn’t agree with his stance on Margaritaville but completely agree with this one. Pink Shell’s proposal is way over the top in both height and density. We may have to adjust comp plan some to account for FEMA changes but NO height adjustments other than flood (usable floors) and NO major density adjustments unless HUGE benefits to community. I think Margaritaville met this standard on several “give backs” of traffic mitigation, sight line to Gulf, etc. Pink Shells give backs mostly benefit themselves with little actual benefit to us. Ditto Moss Marine. Town Council, zoning and planning and “staff” need to get a clue and grow some backbone to stand up for Why We Incorporated in the first place. We as residents need to make sure they do at town, county, and state/national levels at the ballot box. Are you LISTENING AND UNDERSTANDING government officials??

    • As soon as people stop calling them “officials” and address them as representatives/servants with accountability, then they will begin to listen.

  2. The laws of the State of Florida are written to favor land developers over citizens. In Lee County, it is actually illegal for a citizen to contact an elected official to push for or against rezoning request. The Lee County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) will refuse to see you, refuse to accept your email or read your letter. They will not grant you a meeting to discuss it. If you persist in trying to contact the BOCC, you will soon receive a letter from the Lee County Attorney’s office threatening prosecution for violation of these statutes. It should not be like this. Adjacent and nearby landowners have a huge stake in the changes that flow from zoning changes and land developments. Meanwhile, there are NO LIMITS placed on the lobbying that the developers are allowed to do.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here