Town Council Approves Whale Variances

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The Whale could be the first rebuilt restaurant on Fort Myers Beach since Hurricane Ian turned the downtown district into a war zone, wiping out nearly 100 percent of the businesses in that area.

On Monday, the Fort Myers Beach Town Council approved three variances that will allow owners Mike and Dawn Miller to begin the rebuild of their restaurant. Last month the LPA also approved the variances.

The Miller’s are hoping to break ground on their new building in January or February. Construction is expected to take 14 months. That would put the ribbon cutting for the new Whale in the first quarter of 2025.

One sticking point for the approval was parking. The current town code required The Whale to have over 50 parking spots. Before the storm, The Whale had less than 20. It was an extremely successful restaurant with nearly 100 percent walk-in traffic. It’s impossible to include 50 plus parking spots on the property and still build a building.

The LPA and the Town Council approved the parking variance for 17 spots. The LPA required the Miller’s to come up with a plan to manage the deficiency and submit that to the Town Council when they went final approval. On Monday the Town Council approved the variance without the LPA’s parking plan condition. Owner Mike Miller pointed out to the Town Council that there are over 900 parking spots within 500 feet of the restaurant, including town spots and private parking lots.

Rendering of the third floor of the new Whale

The Council (and the LPA) also approved two other variances for the project. The current code for that location only allows for a maximum of 30 feet above base flood elevation and a building that is 2 stories high. The building could have been built without enclosed space on the first floor, and be three stories high, however, the code says it could still only be 30 feet above base flood elevation. The Miller’s received variances for a building that is 2 stories over base flood elevation, with enclosed space on the first floor, and approval to go up 36 feet. They will use the extra feet to enclose ugly equipment.

Dawn Miller told Beach Talk Radio News, “Mike and I are proud to be bringing back the iconic Whale. Breaking ground in early 2024 will be a great moment for our community. I can’t think of better way to start the new year.”

7 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you to the Millers for taking the time, money and lots of energy for rebuilding The Whale. Such a great place. Good luck and looking forward to the ribbon cutting ceremony. 😊

  2. I have so many great memories at the Whale. Congratulations to all parties for working together to make progress. Can’t wait to see the finished product. Well done!

  3. Anyone who has built in our coastal area, knows fourteen months to build is as fast as it can possibly be built. I was excited to hear Mike say that is what is expected. Godspeed!

  4. Great news. Can’t wait to see the new “Whale”, along with the other ne venture of the Millers “Sandy Bottoms”. Congrats!

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