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Gulf Star Marina seeks to renovate boat barn
July 12, 2017

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The tear-down and rebuild of a nearly 70-year-old boat barn on San Carlos Island has caught the attention of local residents.

It's taken eight years for a rezoning application to make it to the Lee County Hearing Examiner, but Gulf Star Marina might be inching closer to a project it applied for in 2009.

The marina, located at 704-742 Fisherman's Wharf, hopes to tear down its old boat barn and rebuild a larger, taller facility.

But before doing so, applicant and owner Carroll Properties LLC has applied to rezone the 2.62 acres on which the current building sits. The property is split up into multiple zoning categories - marine industrial, light industrial and marine commercial. The owner wants to rezone the parcel to industrial planned development. A hearing examiner meeting is set for Thursday, July 13.

According to the application documents, this change will allow the property to have one zoning for the owner to revamp the marina, replacing the existing 12,625-square-foot dry storage building with a 26,100-square-foot building. The 147 wet and dry slips will remain the same, as will Doc Ford's Waterfront Restaurant and its special events building, both located on the property. The 103 dry slips will be inside the barn with enclosed detailing, maintenance and repair services.

"The plans I've seen are really nice, they're trying to modernize it," said David Smedile, Gulf Star Marina assistant manager. "We're back in the stone age, it's needed."

The current boat barn dates to the 1950s. While the new barn will house the same number of boat slips, the owner is requesting a 65-foot height.

An application with that height request has caught the attention, and concern, of the Beach Area Civic Association (BACA).

"When you say renovate, to the people reading that, it means you're going to fix up what you have there," said Nick White, a BACA member. "But they're going to raise the building and double the footprint."

The applicant is using Diversified Yacht Services, just across the street, as precedent to build to 65 feet. But White is worried about the impact of having two 65-foot buildings across from one another, especially since Gulf Star abuts a residential area to its north, Gulf Cove. The existing boat barn is also adjacent to Gulf Cove, but with a 25-foot setback. The proposal asks for a deviation from the setback requirement, with a 15-foot buffer with trees and a double hedge instead.

White says the proximity of a 65-foot building to the mobile homes could create a tunnel effect to its residents, as well as putting them in shadow part of the day. It's not comparable to Diversified Yacht's building, he said, which is farther away from the San Carlos Lodge Mobile Home Park next door.

"It's not analogous," White said.

The application states the current property holds 141 parking spaces that service the marina, Doc Ford's and the special events and banquet building next to Doc Fords, and claims the reconfiguration of the parking lot in this renovation will add one more space, bringing the total to 142. Dixie Fish Company, while owned by Doc Fords, is not located within the Gulf Star property line. But White is concerned that parking for the other restaurants could also be affected.

The proposed revamp adds a water quality component to the 2.62 acre site, which is mostly paved. Currently, stormwater runs off directly into Matanzas Pass with no treatment or retention. The application states the reconfiguration of the boat barn and parking lot will add some areas for water retention, where water can settle and drain more slowly.

The hearing examiner's meeting is set for Thursday, July 13 at 1 p.m. At the hearing examiner's office, 1500 Monroe Street, Fort Myers.

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