What’s Next For The Arches Project at Moss Marina?

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Earlier this week, by a vote of 4-2, the Fort Myers Beach Local Planning Agency denied a request from Freeland Holdings to make a Future Land Use Development Map Amendment. That was the first step Freeland needed approved in their quest to build 3 hotels totaling 400 rooms, a 1,000-foot long community bay walk, a marina, bars, restaurants and shopping.

After much discussion, the LPA denied Freelend’s request. Town Staff recommended the LPA deny the request stating the proposed change “is not clearly in the public interest.” Despite both staff and the LPA recommending denial, Freeland can still take his plan to the Town Council, which is where the final decision lies.

Will Freeland go to the Town Council or will they walk away? Ben Feeland told Beach Talk Radio yesterday, “We are working through the options currently. No clear direction yet.”

If Freeland decides to take his request to change 3.53 acres of Marina use and 1 acre of mixed residential use to Pedestrian Commercial directly to the council and they approve, Freeland could then decide to continue with their plans to build. They would then go through the CPD process much like many of the other major developments on the island must go through. If the Town Council denies the Freeland request, the project is basically dead. Ben Freeland has repeatedly said he would continue to operate as a marina if his project did not go through.

Both the Town Council and LPA have repeatedly said, during joint meetings, that they want to stick to the town’s Comprehensive Plan as is.

The request on the table for the LPA was to change eight parcels of land now identified as Marina and Mixed Residential to Pedestrian Commercial, and join two existing parcels of land Freeland owns that are already classified Pedestrian Commercial.

At the LPA meeting on Tuesday, several residents from the surrounding neighborhoods spoke up in opposition to the project. Moss Marina is adjacent to two nearby neighborhoods.

When Ben Freeland spoke before the LPA Tuesday he asked members, “What do you want the vision of the island to be?” He told them they should put their 20-30 year hats on.

LPA member Patrick Vanasse, who voted in favor of the map amendment change said, “We can look at this as an opportunity or we can approach it with fear.” Vanasse added, “I’ve got concerns about the financial future of this town. We have to get going with redevelopment.” Vanasse was first to make a motion. His motion was to approve the change, which failed by a vote of 4-2.

LPA Chair Anita Cereceda, who’s known the Freeland family for decades said she would love to be able to tell them yes. However, that was not in the cards. She said she was not looking at this project out of fear. “I cannot support your request,” the former Fort Myers Beach Mayor said. “I’m like the old guard. I want people to be able to live their lives. That’s the oldest neighborhood on the island. I can never escape the commercial intrusion on neighborhoods.”

20 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you LPA. The project is much to big for FMB. Oh and FMB is still a destination, plenty to do and see. Best place to hang out. That beach is my gym and my church.

  2. The only fear out there is the false fear of people actually thinking and saying that if this development is not built the town won’t succeed and people will stop coming. That’s foolish thinking. And the island size will not change in 20-30 years, it will still be 7 miles long and 1/2 mile wide at its widest point, so what’s the point of putting “a 20-30 year hat on”? 4 LPA members did the right thing, the other 2, no so much. Stick to the comp plan!!!

    • Alright sir. Glad nothing will change ever. The council chose a Let’s go FMB charter member to serve on the LPA. This group was formed because they were upset about the “glacial” pace of rebuilding the island. The group was clearly in favor of development and change. The very first development to come to this member he votes in Lock step with the “old guard”. The voters that own property here and are residents don’t always agree with the four story requirements that are screamed from the rooftops ( no higher than four stories). I am disappointed that the LPA couldn’t envision a future for the redevelopment of the island. I hope that the development group brings it before the council so we can see exactly where the Let’s Go FMB group and council stands. I wish you luck in squashing development and attracting future visitors to our oasis.

  3. Sound decision made by the LPA. Not for this island. There will be plenty of other options for rooms as the restoration continues throughout the island. If decides to take it to town council hoping for a denial also there.

  4. Can the LPA or town describe the long term plan for so much vacant space? Is it possible to build up and keep vehicle traffic off the island with better trams service etc? We must consider more progressive thinking but still plan for the time and place we live.

  5. I agree with Jerry M. If you short sight the longevity of this project we all loose. Food and fun trailers will get old. Hotel beds will be limited. The island has been in need of clean up and growth for many years. Taking advantage of this opportunity seems to be a win-win. Build it, manage it, maintain it and they will come.

  6. Too much! Won’t help with rebuild of island or traffic. Would seem to make things worse. My 20 year hat says I don’t want any more massive hotels with over 4 stories. How about a parking garage or a ferry or limiting cars on Ft Myers Beach?

  7. Wow – extremely short sighted LPA. Why would you not want this project? Have you driven down FMB lately? I have several friends and relatives from MN who are no longer vacationing here and have no plans to return because they think there is nothing to do here any more – even with Margaritaville. And LPA you are missing a golden opportunity to build a beatiful entertainment district from Arches to Time Square to Margaritaville.

    If you don’t redevelop ALL the damage from the hurricane and bring something new and vibrant to FMB people will stop coming to this island. There are many other options in FL alone. Very short sighted LPA – this will hurt the island in the long run.

    • Help us understand why you claim there is nothing to do? Have you been to the N end? And people are coming, whoever is making comments that they are not is incorrect. Short term Vaca rentals were sold out this season as was Margaritaville. Stop putting fake fear out there. And why would you say the LPA is short sighted. They are following the comp plan that they and council agreed not to change. Know your facts before posting such nonsense.

    • Why, because you think the island will grow in 20 years from a 7 mile island to a larger island? The footprint of the island will not grow, period. The put your 20-30 year hat on comment makes zero sense and it’s amusing how many follow Ben’s foolish comment.

  8. Freelands mentioned they will have to revamp/rebuild some existing buildings if plan not approved anyways could they include overhead housing? . I’m thinking Snookbight marina. Rather than 3 hotels could they build storage and suites above or next to the boats? Showers etc? Have some housing with a lovely waterfront restaurant area. Use the 1 acre of mixed residential. Just thinking out loud. Might be wrong all the way around. It’s happened before😉

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