Woodson Pitches Bigger Pier to TDC

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On Thursday Town Councilwoman Karen Woodson told the Lee County Tourist Development Council that the fishing pier on Fort Myers Beach was the #1 tourist destination in all of Lee County. Woodson’s pitch was for Lee County to build a much bigger replacement pier than it appears the county is planning to build now.

The Fort Myers Beach pier, which is owned by Lee County, was totally destroyed by Hurricane Ian. Once a vibrant fishing pier where tourists loved to flock to watch the sunset, it is now a few wooden posts occupied by birds who’ve come to enjoy their own view from the damaged structure left behind by Ian.

Whatever gets rebuilt will take approximately 3-4 years.

Before it was destroyed, the Fort Myers Pier was 560 feet long and 8 feet wide. Through a competitive bid process, Lee County has chosen a company called Stantec to design a new pier. The Lee County Board of Commissioners will vote on accepting or rejecting Stantec in April. Stantec will not be building the new pier. Stantec would be tasked with designing and permitting the structure, not rebuilding it.

FEMA will reimburse Lee County the funds it takes to rebuild the pier, as it was, and most likely include funding to make the structure more resilient against future storms. Lee County has given every indication that the pier will be built back the way it was with the resiliency enhancements. What a final pier will look like, how long or high it will be, is unknown at this time.

Research from the Let’s Go FMB committee shows how the Fort Myers Beach pier compared to others in Florida.

A citizens group on Fort Myers Beach called Let’s Go FMB created a pier committee to provide input to the Fort Myers Beach Town Council and Lee County on potential new piers. The group wants Lee County to rebuild a per that is approximately 928 feet long (nearly twice as long as the previous pier) and 22 feet wide (nearly 3X as wide as the previous pier).

That bigger pier would most likely cost a lot more money. The Let’s Go FMB pier committee estimates, in addition to what FEMA would reimburse Lee County to build the pier back the way it was, an addition $8 to $10 million would be needed. Woodson was requesting that money come from the Tourist Development Council.

The Lee County TDC receives its funding from a 5% tax on short-term accommodations in Lee County. The money is to be used to support the Beach & Shoreline Capital Improvement Program. Each year the TDC approves funding for the maintenance of Lee County beaches, for beach renourishment projects, and for beach and shoreline capital projects such as piers, boardwalks, parks and re-vegetation.

Lee County Board Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass chairs the TDC. On Tuesday of this week he said the TDC has $60 million in reserves. On Thursday he said, with Stantec the chosen design and permitting firm, the process is now in motion to rebuild the pier.

No action was taken by the TDC after Woodson’s presentation. It’s unclear what, if anything, happens regarding Let’s Go FMB’s larger pier request. Let’s Go FMB pier committee chair Allan Shanosky has said that Lee County has stopped taking his calls about this project.

One representative from Lee County told Beach Talk Radio Thursday that “We are going to make the pier nice and possibly wider. We already took action (the Stantec bid). They (Let’s Go FMB) are late to the table.”

There has not been a huge outcry for a large pier from local residents as of yet. Residents have not organized at either Let’s Go FMB meetings, Town Council meetings or lee County Board meetings to rally behind a larger pier.

A suggested larger pier from the Let’s Go FMB committee

36 COMMENTS

  1. Let FEMA pay for it.going longer will not increase the catch for the fisherman.It might create a problem for the boaters though. The old one was fine.

  2. Exactly…..I’m not a structural engineer but building a pier that is twice as long and 3 times wider just seems like the next category 5 will have fun destroying it. Build it back the way it was…..there was nothing wrong with it and get going!!!

  3. The fishing pier IS NOT the #1 attraction for tourist. The beach is. Anytime a politician starts out a dialogue with an obvious lie, I have a difficult time given any value to the rest of their input.

  4. GO BIGGER, BIGGER, BIGGER, so it will match all of the other construction on FMB. Maybe put a BIG parking lot on the end. Charge $50 an hour…. BIGGER.

  5. We do not need anything more on the Island that will increase traffic. I hope that city leadership will focus more on the residents vs. the commercial interest of land developers and Town Square businesses. We also need to value more the natural beauty of our Island and less the manmade monstrosities that some members of city hall seem to be promoting.
    This is just my opinion. I hope it is shared by other residents.

  6. “One representative from Lee County told Beach Talk Radio Thursday that “We are going to make the pier nice and possibly wider. We already took action (the Stantec bid). They (Let’s Go FMB) are late to the table.”

    What an asinine comment! TODAY is exactly 500 DAYS since September 28, 2022. I defended Lee County throughout the first year of recovery as I am a 4th generation native Floridian and understand the full impact that Ian (my 5th major hurricane in my life) brought upon our community (still working on our house like many others). I understand needing to build the community back the correct way but I feel as if the county is running this show (at their own pace) and all others be damned.

    I hope the county commissioners are taking the FMB and Let’s Go FMB’s requests seriously. In addition, I hope Mr. Pendergrass has taken the information provided by Ms. Woodson to heart when it comes to decide how tight the purse strings of the TDC surplus are held. I remember when he knocked on my parents door in Bonita Beach looking for votes some 12+ years ago with his plans to help Lee County recover from the economic downturn and prosper. It’s time to continue the second part of that mission.

  7. I don’t think it needs to be twice as long. What was wrong with the old one? No one ever complained about it saying it needed to be longer. Maybe a bit wider would be nice. And why does it need two levels? Let’s just get a simple, wider and more sturdy pier built and quit screwing around.

  8. Let me make a prediction, it will be at least 10 years before any type of new pier is completed. Just look at the lights on Estero blvd, going on 10 years and still not a satisfying result. The Town and Lee County move slower than our beloved turtles.

    • Mayor Dan ran for Town Council on one issue – street lights –
      He has FAILED – promises broken .
      Improving Pier significantly is a NO Brainer – Fla and Lee County are FLUSH with cash reserves and Pier is an opportunity to create an improved experience for all the 1000s who flock to the sands of Lynn Hall Park to Lanai Kai Daily in season .

  9. Forget the size. Focus on the county’s stall. Four years to rebuild? The loss is already approaching two years.
    Four more years? Absurd.
    Worse, outrageous.
    And don’t count on all you should expect from the TDC. Over the years that outfit has assumed too much power and not nearly enough oversight.

  10. “Late to the table “ perhaps if this unnamed source acted faster we could be like Flagler beach. They already have $13.5 million from feds, $4.5 million from the state and will begin construction shortly on their pier which was also destroyed by hurricane Ian after it crossed the state.

  11. Any time you get more, we’re going to have to pay for it and I have no objections to this. My suggestion would be that if we can’t come to an agreement on the length and width, let’s compromise and meet somewhere in the middle. Either way we will have to pay for anything extra – that’s life.

  12. I don’t think bigger is necessarily better. I’m for restoration of the original pier. Keeps the community smaller, more quiet. And the state of Florida or the city of Fort Myers should pay for it, not the locals! The pier is there for tourists mostly to bring in money from them.

  13. An “unnamed” source states the Let’s Go FMB pier committee was “late to the table”?
    The committee was formed because we knew it would be a lengthy project and nearly a year after the storm none of our officials were discussing it. I believe our committee is the reason we are discussing it now.

    • Absolutely, Allen. It could be beneficial for Ed to conduct interviews with you and the members of the Pier Committee to provide a more accurate depiction of the situation, rather than relying on political rhetoric. There is a concerning prevalence of rumors and unsubstantiated “expert opinions” circulating, which do not align with the actual facts. Additionally, it would be helpful to identify the county representative who inaccurately claimed that Let’s Go FMB was late to the table. The Let’s Go FMB Pier Committee has been actively advocating for this initiative for a significant period, far preceding the interest shown by any county officials in the pier project. Let’s set that record straight: The Let’s go FMB Pier Committe absolutely set the date, invited the guests, prepared the meal, set the table, have been at the table and attempting to spoon-feed practical and beneficial data to the very same folks who now claim that the Pier Committee is late to the table.

  14. At the TDC meeting during discussion there was a question on what FMB would be willing to contribute towards a more bigger, longer, wider, etc pier that exceeds what FEMA would not pay for. Really?
    It just seems to me that FMB (and Sanibel) tourism contributes a large portion of the TDC funding but that is not taken into consideration.

  15. We have been regular seasonal visitors for 30 years. in all that time, I’ve never seen the pier occupied to the point where I thought it needed to be longer. Stronger and wider would be my recommendation.

  16. Staten Island needs a huge pier. The quaint , gulfside town of FMB does not. You will never get a handle on traffic, parking, size of hotels , water, power, emergency services if you keep wanting bigger. Let’s decide what and who we are. The old pier had a spot for every fisherman and photo shot . Good enough

  17. A bigger pier would be nice and Ian made it possible to consider one. I visited here annually for 27 years before becoming a full time resident in 2009. In all these years I’ve been on the pier maybe 10 times or so. Not once did I ever think “I sure wish this pier was bigger”.

  18. The #1 attraction on FMB is the beach. Second is Times Square. In my 25 years vacationing in FMB I’ve spent a lot more $$$ in Times Square and no $$$ on the pier

  19. The old pier was fine as it was. The only time it was crowded was during February and March, otherwise it was usually pretty empty. Why build such a huge pier for two months of the year when FEMA will pay the entire bill? Just another resident’s opinion.

  20. Bigger is sometimes is not better plus when happens when then next big storm happens when you extend it farther out in the gulf.

  21. A small benefit of living in a tourist destination is us residents get to have amenities that do not cost us a dime. A trade for putting up with the traffic and shenanigans that occur in such a destination. The 5% room tax is what funds these projects. The up to date pier is one such benefit. The new improved pier would still be below the average size of gulf coast piers. The pier we build will be the last opportunity , for hopefully 50 years, to construct a pier for the future.

  22. A bigger pier would be nice but only if it isn’t going to cost residents any more money. All of us have lost so much and it’s costing us all something to build back our homes. We are building ours back same size but more resilient (higher) and even thought we received some insurance money, it is costing us twice what we received from insurance out of pocket. And if insurance and taxes go up, we will then have to decide if we can or want to stay on FMB.

    If the pier were to be rebuilt bigger and better at no cost to residents, I am onboard. If it is going to cost us any money in any way, in my opinion, rebuild sturdier. I would prefer not to see a two story parking garage blocking the beach view from San Carlos Blvd. I would be fine with a one level pier being at the fishing level to cut costs. If anything just a little longer and a little wider.

    Just my humble opinion. Thanks for doing a new survey because as time goes on and we realize the price tags of things our options also can change.

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