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Wednesday, 16 December 2015 11:17

There is a Lot of Emotion at Play on San Carlos Island

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There is a lot of emotion at play on San Carlos Island in unincorporated Lee County right now over the proposed development of the old Compass Rose Marina property.

We received a letter from a resident who lives on Emily Lane on the island, close to where the development is to take place directly off Main Street. He says that many residents on the Island object to what is planned for the property and they are looking at ways to challenge the project.

The development of the Compass Rose site is not a new idea nor has it escaped our purview over the years. When I was the Owner and Editor of the Island Sand Paper, several local businessmen that we knew well were involved in acquiring and getting permits to redevelop the property.

They cleared the site, built a sales office onsite and started to do actual work and then it all came abruptly to a halt. Some of the reasons advanced for the stoppage, among others, was the lack of financial backing to see it through and others cited an inability to get the proper permits.

Regardless of the history of what was at that time ill-fated, the project is alive again and this time it seems to have a more defined approach. There is a website: www.inkwerks.net; brochures are being circulated with concept drawings and substantial paperwork has been submitted to Lee County in connection with the permitting process.

Locals will well remember when Diamondhead was developed by Sunstream back in the mid-1990's on Estero Island. At that time the island was, like San Carlos Island is now, an unincorporated part of Lee County. Resident's resistance to Diamondhead led to the formation of the Town of Fort Myers Beach. It was believed that if citizens formed a government, they could stop further overly tall building from being built and protect the residential flavor of the Beach from overdevelopment by big interests bent on commercializing the Island.

While the efforts were too late to stop Diamondhead, the Town was formed and a Comprehensive Plan was developed to stop future structures from being too high or too dense, thereby preserving the residential tone that residents felt was right for them. The Civic Association was one of the organizations formed to protect this residential flavor. That organization later morphed into what many felt was "anti-development" and after a period of trying to remain viable, it disbanded a few years ago.

There is talk about forming a similar organization now on San Carlos Island to unite residents in opposition to the Compass Rose development by the Coastal Development firm, Ink Werks.

There seems to be a relentless push to make things ever bigger seeking ever greater returns from the limited space available on and around our waterfront properties. I personally sold my property on the Beach because it was becoming overregulated and over developed. Despite the fact the initial incorporation of the Town of Fort Myers Beach was done to block and curtail overdevelopment, the government has proven to be susceptible to the overtures and promises of "progress" and "more money" that developers always bring to the tables.

Even as San Carlos Island starts its own march to meet the developers, Fort Myers Beach now has its hands out to those who want to get "variances" to do the very things people organized initially to stop.

Why does this happen so often? Well, in our opinion, it has to do with profit in the end. It's always about following the money. Seduced by bigger property tax bases, more permitting fees, more business revenues, more sales tax, more bed tax and just generally MORE, those in charge just can't resist the development checkbook. It would be great to think it wasn't so; that those who really do have our best interests at heart would resist and push back with vigor, but instead expect the song and dance, the dog and pony show of "public hearings" and "reviews" to go forward with a predicted end in sight.

The best proof we can offer for the validity of this opinion is the number of developments already up. By their very presence the truth is known. Nevertheless, even if the end result seems predetermined once in a great while the people do prevail and that possibility alone justifies the involvement. We applaud any honest effort to be part of the journey, no matter how difficult the road or what's at the destination.

Carl Conley

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