New council member: Controversial development heated up election

Published: March 16, 2016 5:06 PM EDT
Updated: March 16, 2016 6:42 PM EDT

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. – Their town is locked in a fierce battle over a proposed development that promises an island makeover, but newly elected council members are strongly against it.

Council member Dennis Boback was elected to office Tuesday. Just a day later he is speaking out against Grand Resorts project, a topic he said swayed votes.

“That’s all anybody talked about,” Boback said. “We had about seven forums or pretty close to that and the number one issue was GRP.”

The second council seat up for grabs was claimed by Tracey Gore. Boback said voters chose them because of their vocal stance on the project. Plans for the Grand Resorts include hotels, a parking garage and a pedestrian mall. Both Boback and Gore have said the the project is too large for the island.

Boback said other candidates, Dan Andre and Bruce Butcher, expressed support for the development and lost favor with voters.

“You could tell Dan and Bruce are for it and I think that’s what hurt them — both of them. Tracey and I never changed our stance from day one,” he said.

Andre, who was Fort Myers Beach vice mayor, was not re-elected Tuesday.

Despite Boback’s prediction about turnout, voter Bill Veach said his decision was not influenced by the Grand Resorts project.

“I think there are a lot of other issues with the town and there are a lot of issues that got me out to vote,” he said.

Still, he agrees the project was a major topic with many voters.

“Most people are talking about GR. Not many people are talking about the other issues,” Veach said.

The Grand Resorts project was not included on the ballot, though residents were asked to vote on 21 referendums in addition to casting votes for town council.

The project will not be presented to the town council until the developer submits drafts to the county and applies for permits.