The arguments by the applicants and supporters for the change was that there has not been significant redevelopment in the island’s industrial use areas in the last 20 years that has conformed with San Carlos Island Management Plan, and that the development would need uses beyond a marina to support a viable project.
The additional uses talked about include a 14 story mixed-use residential building and a 5 story parking structure that could house up to 520 cars. However, objections were raised by both members of the LPA and San Carlos residents attending the meeting that these structures would create too much of a density increase in that community.
“113 units is a 12 percent increase in density on San Carlos Island,” Joanne Semmer said during public comment. She also opposed losing Industrial zoning in that area, as she states its critical in serving the shrimping industry that still operates in that area.
“We need to protect that land use designation,” Semmer said, pointing out that as San Carlos Island is on the only federal channel located between Tampa and Key West, it lends itself to these industrial uses. “There’s no other place like this in Lee County.”
“Under the old plan, those slips would be used as part of an ongoing marina industry business, not as an extension of a residential use,” Jeff Buxter said. He also touched on the proposed residential building itself. “To think that’s going to be a good thing for that area is just off the wall. The two lane Main Street is already crowded. During busy times, you can’t turn left or right.”
Not everyone in the public opposed the project, though. Pat Lang, another resident of San Carlos Island, said she supported the development “150 percent.”
“It is what we all want? Of course not,” Land said. “Is it ever going to be perfect? It isn’t.” However, she felt the project was a “Grand opportunity.”
“That is not a good place to walk at night,” Lang said of the area in its current state. “There are a lot of people who hang out in that particular area because it is not occupied. It ends up being an area where people go and do their drugs or a number of other things.”
However, most felt that solving the problem of an unoccupied area on the island required more effort than approving a project that dramatically changes the zoning.
Joe McHarris, there representing the owners of the future Ebbtide development planned for Salty Sam’s current location, felt the proposed Bay Harbour project was potentially getting a free ride on infrastructure improvements the County required of Ebbtide, and that several aspects of this newer project were inconsistent with the process his group went through.
“We weren’t allowed to have one additional unit, and that made sense,” McHarris said, referencing the fact that Ebbtide was only allowed 271 units, equal to the units it would be replacing in the existing communities it will be built upon.
“Just changing a designation in the middle of the island can cause irreparable harm,” McHarris said.
The recommendation for the voting change was denied by the LPA in a 5-2 vote. LPA members Gary Tasman and David Mulicka were the dissenting votes.
By Trent Townsend