To Rezone or Not To Rezone.

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That will be the question for the five Fort Myers Beach town council members next week. A big part of their 439 page agenda Monday has to do with the first of two public hearings to rezone Myerside Resort & Cottages from Residential Conservation to Commercial Planned Development. Here’s why it’s a bit sticky.

Myerside is located on School street near Bay Oaks and the Library. The reason the owners are asking for the zone change is so they can add a small store and restaurant with Estero Boulevard frontage, and make other changes that will net them 2 more units, bring the total number of units on their property to 14.

The town staff has recommended the application put forth by the owners of Myerside be denied. The Local Planning Agency voted unanimously (6-0) to approve the change. The owners and the LPA believe the changes are consistent with the town’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code. The town staff does not. Who does the town council side with here, their paid professionals or their volunteer neighbors and friends on the LPA?

In its lengthy and detailed presentation to the LPA the Myerside owners said their upgrades and changes also help conserve the historical cottage look of Fort Myers Beach, something LPA member Dan Hughes, who’s been around a long time, agreed with and said was part of the town’s original plan.

The Myerside owners were prepared to make their presentation to the LPA on February 9th. Local attorney Bev Grady was part of their team along with Patrick Vanasse, an engineer. Vanasse is actually an LPA member now and had to recuse himself from voting on the matter. Community Development Director Jason Green presented the town’s case.

Following the Myerside presentation to the LPA, Green made the town’s short case for denial. LPA Chair Megan Heil did not believe the town came to the table as prepared to defend their reasoning and expressed her frustration with Green. “For something this complex, I’m a little disappointed that the town did not have something to guide us through this. I would have liked a little more guidance as to why you are denying this. This is a very complex situation. I would have liked a little better explanation as to why you have a different opinion. I feel like we just got a quick glancing blow.”

The first of two public hearings on the change will be held at Monday’s Town Council meeting. A second hearing will be held April 5th. Then, the town 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.

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