After two years, three development plans, two application filings and TPI Hospitality’s long-awaited successful submission of a development plan for its Fort Myers Beach Times Square Resort project to Town Council, the Voice of Fort Myers Beach (VFMB) stands its ground in regard to the overall size and number of hotel rooms permitted, citing “Density Matters.”
“Our hope is that Town council recognizes that density is at the heart of the comprehensive plan,” says, Robert Boykin of the Pink Shell Beach Resort. “Infrastructure on the island has not changed since the creation and adoption of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan. Density was a concern then, and is a concern now.”
VFMB is a coalition of citizens and stakeholders formed in early 2016 to bring clarity to the important issues that development brings to the island. While TPI’s third design concept clears some bureaucratic hurdles, VFMB warns the project sets a bad precedent for presupposing an exception to the Town’s Comprehensive Plan, to which all other developers are beholden.
Although the number of rooms has decreased for the proposed Times Square Resorts versus the original 2015 Grand Resorts development, TPI still wants to build a considerable number of hotel rooms over the limit allowed under the comprehensive plan. This increase in hotel density, along with the proposed public access waterpark, will exacerbate traffic by bringing more cars to already overcrowded streets and parking facilities.
The Comprehensive Plan, as codified by the Land Development Code, recognizes that Fort Myers Beach is already overbuilt. Policy 4-B-1 cites overbuilding as the cause of traffic congestion, something the Town is already infamous for. A no-net development capacity policy is established in Policy 5-A-5. Stakeholders are concerned about many aspects of development for which the Plan defines and recommends policies, including traffic, building height, setbacks, flood zone regulations, parking, density, intensity, health, safety and environmental impacts.
Paul Malbon, owner of Best Western Beach Resort, said, “Voice of Fort Myers Beach feels TPI Hospitality, like any other developer, should respect and build within the guidelines set by the Town’s Comprehensive Plan. If the Town stays committed to its Comprehensive Plan, TPI will eventually comply with its density restrictions.”
Upon submission of its development plan, TPI asked for a condition that has not applied to the island’s other hospitality companies. Instead of density, TPI wants the project to be evaluated on a floor-to-area ratio, which is the test for commercial buildings, allowing those developers to build as much as the property area can hold. Due to utilities and other infrastructure demands, hotels are conventionally attributed some amount of density. Under the guidelines of the Comprehensive Plan, land owned by TPI Hospitality would be permitted to build an estimated 156 rooms, which is the number VFMB will support.
As anxious as residents, businesses and visitors may be to see TPI Hospitality move forward with development of the property it owns, it is vital that the guidance provided within the Town of Fort Myers Beach’s Comprehensive Plan be applied to all developers:
– to minimize increased traffic issues
– to minimum additional parking mayhem
– to avoid a slippery slope where all subsequent developers seek to grow beyond the island infrastructure’s ability to support it.
The quasi-judicial review process for codifying the Comprehensive Plan is rigorous to ensure legal defensibility. Any deviation from the plan would undermine the public’s trust in the government’s role in representing the interests of all who live in, work in and visit Fort Myers Beach.
In March VFMB released a report detailing the specific obligations of the Town of Fort Myers Beach’s current Comprehensive Plan, which is available, along with additional support documents, at VOICEofFMB.com.