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Friday, 08 January 2016 10:16

Council Defers on Grand Resorts Resolution

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Grand Resorts, the planned development put forth by developer Tom Torgerson, has been a hot topic all over Lee County. However, the epicenter of discussion has been Fort Myers Beach. Residents showed up en masse at a joint meeting between the FMB Town Council and Lee County Commissioners at the end of November last year where the scope of the project was first revealed, and again at the Chapel by the Sea in December, where a standing room only crowd packed in to watch another presentation by Torgerson and his team from TPI Hospitality. The Residents of the Beach Town once again showed up in large numbers at the Fort Myers Beach Town Council’s first regular meeting of 2016, where a Resolution was on the agenda regarding the properties seawall.

The Resolution, 15-23, would allow “Grand Resorts, Inc. to submit applications to FEMA and DEP for the seawall/boardwalk without objection from the Town.” While the resolution went on to clarify that all liability would be on Grand Resorts for these applications, and that the Town reserved the right to approve or object to the project in the future in light of this item, it raised concerns from both resident and Councilmember alike.

Mainly, everyone was wary that approving the Resolution could be construed as tacit approval for the project.

Fort Myers Beach Mayor Anita Cereceda stated that at this point “Our job is to hear what people have to say, but not express an opinion.” She urged that every party involved to “take a breath,” saying that the Town was performing due diligence on the people’s behalf.

For this meeting, there was little show in the way of temper, as opposed to the jeers that occurred at the public presentation Torgerson held back in December.

“A lot of the public there was a vote today, up or down, on this project,” Tom Torgerson said during public comment. “It bothered me that there was that misconception. Things couldn’t be further from the truth.”

“Our interaction with public on this project, to date, has been a voluntary process on our part, and we have not begun any formal process with our jurisdiction here,” Torgerson continued. “We’re not ready to. We want to work with the public.”

Torgerson announced at the meeting that they planned to hold another public outreach program on January 14th at 5:30 pm at the Bay Oaks Recreational Center on Fort Myers Beach. He said that they will be unveiling enhancements to the project that evening, and that every rendering they showed at the December 14th meeting had been redone.

As a result of stated concerns, and the fact that Torgerson can proceed with these application without action from the Town, the resolution was deferred indefinitely.

The Town also awarded a bid to the Chamber of Commerce of FMB for the information booth sport in Times Square on the island, a sport previously occupied by the Tours and Information Booth for years beforehand. When members of the Council raised objections about the contract with the previous tenants and decide to set it out for bid last year, the FMB Chamber used the opportunity to make a grab parcel held by the Chamber member.

The FMB Chamber has been searching for more visibility since the then-Chamber Foundation (now Beach Kids Foundation) was forced to evict them from their San Carlos Blvd location due to the Chamber’s continued failure to reimburse the Foundation for the lease on the property. How much revenue the Town will generate from this contract has yet to be negotiated.

Finally, the Town of Fort Myers Beach has posted an “invitation to negotiate” on their website for a Special Projects Coordinator. Given the scale of the Grand Resorts project, which is far larger than most projects FMB has dealt with, the Town is seeking a Coordinator to represent throughout each phase of the project should it proceed.

The application review process will begin January 20th.

By Trent Townsend

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