Fort Myers Beach development project draws controversy

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla.- A controversy is brewing on Fort Myers Beach over a proposed development in the downtown area.

The ambitious project calls for resorts, a mall, and a new parking garage near Times Square.

At a Town Hall meeting on Monday night with the developer, Grand Resorts- Fort Myers Beach, a large crowd booed and shut down the idea of the massive project when they saw the renderings for the first time.

“We have comp plan, we have land development codes, so this would be fine if it was per code. This is way over code,” said resident Tracey Gore.

Grand Resorts wants to develop the downtown area of the island with four hotels, restaurants, retail, a boardwalk and parking garage. The developer would also have to build a 2-3 foot high seawall so all the development can be ground level.

“It would be a great thing. It would give us the opportunity of spending more time and since there is the beach but not much to do, we sort of go back to where we are staying,” said tourist Daniele Gadbois.

The developer also says the project will enhance the turtle habitat for nesting, would make the area more pedestrian friendly, and improve the traffic problem on the island.

“When you come over the bridge many times you get stuck at the traffic light. That traffic light will no longer exist. There will be a round-a-bout there where you can have continuous flow,” said Tina Matte.

Many residents are unhappy, saying they feel as if Lee County and Town of Fort Myers Beach have already given the massive project a green light.

“We have not been given a voice. This has been done behind closed doors so far,” said Gore.

Lee County Commissioner Larry Kiker says that is not true and the developer has only started talking to those who live on the beach.

“He has actually going out to the people and he hasn’t even applied yet, so we have had nothing to talk about, nothing to negotiate,” said Kiker.

This project still has many more hoops to jump through, including applying for permits for the seawall and for the rest of the project. Lee County commissioners are meeting Tuesday morning to discuss working with the town on the project.