This summer, Fort Myers Beach City Council worked aggressively to change the current code for beach chair/umbrella vendors to a BFVP (Beach Furniture Vending Permit). Currently, there are 11 vendors with 30 locations on a seven mile island that provides this service to beach goers, however, if the council passes this ordinance, there will be only five vendors, with a total of twelve locations permitted to continue with their businesses. There have been two or three “working” meetings with vendors to provide discussion about the new proposed ordinance, however, the majority of these vendors where not notified of these “working” meetings. At the last “working” meeting, a majority of the vendors were present with the mayor at city hall, however, notification to all vendors was not provided by the mayor or city council, most of them were notified by word of mouth from other vendors. This has been an ongoing problem with the city council. The mayor indicated they had received 100's of complaints, however, as vendors, we have not seen any documentation of these complaints. That makes us skeptical and questions how valid the complaints are and why such an over regulated ordinance was created. We will briefly provide you with a chronological order of events at the last “working” meeting on September 4, 2015, and other meetings to follow.
A majority of the vendors were present and each had the opportunity to speak of the unique situation that each vendor encounters at their respective locations and how the proposed BFVP ordinance presents negative impacts for them as owners/vendors, for property owners, for businesses, and for visitors to Fort Myers Beach. These amenities that will be taken away, and will not accommodate supply/demand for vacationers and local patrons. Of the proposed changes, there were three or four items that the majority of the vendors agreed they could work with and support. At the close of the "working" meeting, everyone signed in with their name and email address. The mayor asked all in attendance to email her with their suggestions. (See attachment of the mayor's email after the "working meeting".)
The vendors respectively honored her request and submitted their recommendations, however, the ordinance when completed, resulted in NO changes by the city council, ignoring any recommendations from the vendors. According to the Fort Myers Beach charter, the council has to submit the ordinance to the LPA (Local Planning Agency) for their recommendations. At the council meeting, November 16, 2015, there was one individual, who is a resident of Fort Myers Beach, whom asked to be on the agenda and speak in favor of the new restrictive ordinance. The LPA had a meeting on December 8, 2015. At the LPA meeting, the same individual that had requested to speak on November 16, 2015, at the city council, was also in attendance at the LPA meeting and requested to speak in favor of the restrictive ordinance.
The LPA asked the audience who was in favor and who was against the new ordinance. Except for the one individual, others in attendance raised their hands against the ordinance. The LPA continued to review this ordinance. At the beginning of this meeting, the LPA expressed their deep concerns and the negative impact this ordinance will have. The following is a brief list of the LPA’s concerns and comments:
• The majority of the LPA members were not in favor of this ordinance and wanted nothing to do with the ordinance
• Felt that this was over governing
• Eliminating supply & demand
• Commercial resort zoning is 50 units or more, why increase to 60 units
• Vendors have been in business on the beach for 15-25 years or longer and should not be eliminated and should be grandfathered in
The individual that had requested to speak in favor of the ordinance at the previous meetings seems to have a personal agenda. His daughter is a Fort Myers Beach council member and has publicly made it known that she wants to eliminate a large amount of the chairs/umbrellas on the beach. Because of her public comments, her father speaking before the council and the LPA, and her serving as a council member, creates a conflict of interest by consanguinity. The Town Charter, states: “Section 4.13 Voting; quorum.--Roll call voting shall be required for ordinances or upon the specific request of a council member and shall be recorded in the minutes; otherwise, voting shall be by ayes and nays. Three members of the council shall constitute a quorum. No action of the council shall be valid or binding unless adopted by the affirmative vote of a majority of the council. All council members in attendance shall vote on all council actions, except when, with respect to any such member, there is, or appears to be, a possible conflict of interest as defined under general law.
Please review the attached “NEGATIVE IMPACT CHART”. We believe this presents a clear visual of the negative impact to the vendors, businesses, property owners, local patrons and visitors to Fort Myers Beach. We all have customers return every year to our properties and they provide excellent reviews on Trip Advisor, Facebook, and other social media venues that we use. We feel this ordinance is extremely over regulating. Thank you for your time and your consideration in this matter, we look forward to hearing from you soon. Fort Myers Beach Concerned Vendors