The Inside Scoop on The New Fort Myers Beach Pier

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Three options to rebuild the Fort Myers Beach pier were on the table for the Lee County Board of Commissioners to consider on Tuesday. They wound up going with a longer, wider pier and putting an additional $11.6 million into the structure. The new pier will cost a total of $17.1 million and take 5 years to complete.

The three options Commissioners were presented were:
#1) To build the pier back exactly as it was using all FEMA funds ($5.5 million). That would have resulted in a pier 8 feet wide and 585 feet long, exactly as it was before Hurricane Ian. This option was never really considered. Total time: 3 years
#2) A pier 12 feet wide (4 feet wider than the pre-Ian pier) and 585 long (pre-Ian length). That would have cost the county an additional $1 million. Total time: 3.5-4 years
#3) Wider (12 feet) and longer (1,000 feet), at an additional cost to Lee County of $11 million, on top of the $5.5 million in FEMA funds. Total time: 5 years.

The longer pier almost didn’t happen.
It appeared County staff may not have been expecting Commissioners to consider the top-shelf pick for the pier as they were unprepared to answer Commissioner Kevin Ruane’s question; ‘How much money is in the Tourist Development Council reserve fund?’ Lee County administers TDC funds – collected from the bed tax – which have to be used on specific beach and tourism related items. County Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass is the Chairman of the TDC. When Pendergrass said that there was $24 million in the TDC reserve fund that gave Commissioner’s pause, not wanting to deplete that fund by $11 million.

In fact, it appeared option #2 would cross the finish line because of the $24 million reserve fund number Pendergrass announced. Chair Mike Greenwell was pushing for option two before the tide suddenly turned.

Turns out the reserve TDC fund actually has $40 million in it, not the $24 million Pendergrass announced. That moved Commissioner Kevin Ruane quickly toward option #3. Ruane said he felt a lot more comfortable knowing there was $40 million in the account. “It is the number one attraction in Lee County.”

Pendergrass agreed with Ruane. “We have an opportunity to build something that will be there for the next 50 to 100 years. This would be a huge draw for the region and for the beach. A great amenity to add to an area that’s been devastated over the last 2 years.

The discussion also flipped Greenwell to option #3 and he made a motion to build the bigger, more expensive pier, which passed by a vote of 4-0. The longer pier will take 21-36 months to design and permit and then 12-18 months to build putting the opening of the pier close to the year 2030. That’s 2 years longer than if the pier was built back exactly the way it was pre-Ian.

Commissioner Ray Sandelli, who’s district includes Fort Myers Beach, missed the vote but was happy with the way it turned out. “As you may know, I am out of town for a family wedding. Was sorry to miss the excitement Tuesday but thankful for my fellow commissioners vote and for all who worked diligently to advance and step in the future of FMB.”

Commissioners also discussed the possibility of building the pier back to 585 feet and, at a future date, adding on to the end of the structure, to attempt to get it open sooner. But realizing that would most likely add a substantial amount to the cost to build they decided to build bigger now. Most likely millions of dollars more.

There will not be restrooms constructed on the new longer pier. They will continue to be in Lynn Hall Park and (trailers) in Crescent Beach Park. There was also no discussion about a fishing area or how fishing will play into the new pier.

Commissioner Brian Hamman voiced his concern with how long the project would take “I am on board with all of this except for the time frame. The time frame is just not sitting well.”

There are no renderings of the new pier available as of yet. Lee County plans to keep the community informed about construction with signs at the pier and a running website. Commissioners are very aware the community is not happy with how long the project will take. Commissioners also expressed their frustration with the amount of time to rebuild the pier.

37 COMMENTS

    • You moved to an island in Florida. Come on here. Why did you come here? Because of the same reason others want to come.

    • Let me guess you rather them spend it on homeless or workforce housing(section 8) instead of something that bring value back. You can always run for commissioner seat.

  1. It seems to me that with the need of new attractions needed in this area to bring tourist Dollars we should be able to put some PEPPER in the designing & permitting of this project, it is not like they are designing a capsule to go to Mars. When in need they can push a project without so much RED TAPE.

  2. It’s not the build time that is the issue. It’s design and permit process. Expedite it somehow. DeSantis got a bridge fixed in two weeks. Pretty sure we can design and permit one in less than 3 years. Stupid.

  3. Five years??? How is that even possible? It would take half that time in NY. It is just like the road project–a mile a year. Ridiculous.

  4. This is the most abusive use of money I’ve ever seen out of a government office! We’ve owned on the island for years before retiring here full-time. When we were working, we came down during off-peak months and the only people on the pier were a few people fishing at the end. The pier was 99% empty 9 months out of the year. This is a total waste of money when there are small businesses and HOAs struggling to rebuild. Help them come back and rebuild the old pier as it was.

  5. I wish that this fund would be something that the tourist really do want like looking at the traffic issues and spending some money on how to correct and improve flow on the beach. One ways during certain times of the day. Maybe we this will draw more tourist and local traffic to a congested part of the island that will have little parking to accommodate and cause more issues in the long term. Bigger is not better but trouble.

      • the solution is over the bridge. Not on the island. Can you push a parking garage just over the bridge. Bus lane is already there. Traffic light is there at Prescott. Keep the flow off the island. Payback to county would be probably 8-10 years at most.

  6. This is just my guess, but it’s impact to the residents of the Island will probably be negative. I have owned a home here since 1998 and I do not think I ever stepped on the old pier. The pier benefits the Times Square business interest 95% and maybe only 5% supports the residents interest. More and more schlock on the Island. More hours to get to Walmart and back.
    I hope that next election cycle the residents get more representation in City Hall.

  7. Awesome News!!! Continued improvements and building back stronger! Awesome job Karen Woodson in representing FMB well on this! Onward!!

  8. They chose option 3 bc the funds were there and the pier is the face of fmb but……they can’t seem to get it done a bit faster? I understand construction as I’m in the crane business but we’ve built bridges in NY faster then this lol 🤷🏼‍♀️

  9. A larger pier is great, but it needs to have lighting. I understand that FEMA no longer allows the ‘bait store’ on the pier, but it would make sense to have one at the entrance to the pier, with a restroom (since the pier will be so much longer). I certainly hope the new design will be different than the latest proposal that looked like a cattle herding station or the line up area to a theme park ride!!

  10. The only question I have is in regards to, “Turns out the reserve TDC fund actually has $40 million in it, not the $24 million.”. How did they not get that correct from the start?

  11. FIVE YEARS TO COMPLETE!!??? LOL!!!!!! This is what happens when you have semi-politicians overseeing/managing ANY type of construction. What a joke.
    12-18 months, MAX!!! Bureaucracy at its finest.

  12. No restrooms, 3 football fields longer! Will ot be lighted? What about Turtle season with light restrictions?
    What about boats traveling at night rime? Asking for Crime on a bridge of this length- no restrooms, no fishing/tackle?What will be the security on this 1,000 ft long bridge? Who will maintain the trash daily? So much more thought and discussion needed.

  13. With such a costly pier, you would think a bait/convenience snack or restaurant shop with public restrooms could be included. Plus I think a 2 level pier with the lower level allowing fishing, top level for sightseeing ,strolling and eating could really be worth the wait.

  14. I would like to give a HUGE shoutout to Allen Shanosky and the Let’s Go FMB Pier Committee for initially presenting this idea at their meeting, which was attended by Lee County Commissioners and the County Manager. This started the ball rolling. Additionally, there were presentations made at both Lee County meetings and the TDC, which kept this project highlighted as to the importance of the rebuild of FMB. Thank you to all the Lee County Commissioners for their support of FMB!

    • THIS is exactly what I would reply, as well! Lee County Commissioners are all in with backing FMB. It takes time and I have to add……..MONEY! FMB is not the only game in town and the Commissioners have to do a lot of due diligence as it is not “their” money.

  15. The timeline stated by the county is 2-3 years for design and an additional 1.5 years for construction. That’s 3.5-4.5 years on the outside. The county staff was then directed to use all state contacts to condense timeline. In my humble opinion Ed and I will be fishing off the end of this pier in less than 4 years. This is a good thing for FMB, everyone should celebrate and jump on board!

  16. I am glad to see a wider and longer Pier, but 1,000 feet! That is roughly 3 foot ball fields in length, for reference. Some people will have a hard time just making it to the end of the pier and back. And if they are going to make it that long, would love to see a restroom and some type of gift shop or snack shop out there.

    • That’s what I was thinking. Just because they have more than originally thought (which is questionable) doesn’t mean they have to spend it.

  17. 21-36 months to design and permit? That’s a variance of over 71%. Seems like those numbers were just picked out of the air. Hopefully, this phase ends up being greatly reduce.

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