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Fort Myers Beach is changing — and not just because of TPI-FMB
April 25, 2018

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In an emotionally-charged roll-call, the Town Council voted to send the TPI-FMB project to its second hearing, supporting the project with its negotiated changes.

It's still not officially approved; it will go before council again Monday, May 21 for its final hearing, but at least three council members were vocal in saying their vote wouldn't change between now and then.

Some people are happy with that unanimous vote; others are not. Everyone's entitled to their opinions about how the new development will positively or negatively impact their lives.

We do want to address a particular opinion we've heard throughout TPI-FMB's application process.

After posting the latest update about the TPI project to our Facebook page, our stories would get comments or we would hear people say that the TPI project is going to change the small-town character of the island forever, that it would make everything different and the island would never be the same, all these comments in a negative tone.

If anyone thinks this one project is what will change Fort Myers Beach, then they haven't been paying attention.

Fort Myers Beach has already changed. Its residential redevelopment has already shattered that small beach community aesthetic.

We all know what Bonita Beach looks like, and people often shudder to imagine such a canyon drive here. But that same redevelopment has already taken over the south end of the island and it's creeping up Estero Boulevard steadily. There are some 10 concrete "mountains" next to the old cottages between Coconut Drive and Junkanoo's, some under construction and others newly completed.

We're not condemning the construction of these new, and very beautiful, homes. Some of the reasons homes are being built this way are understandable: it's a combination of flood regulations, mounting property values and market demands. If someone wants a home like that on their property, they can build that home and it's their right. Some of the old beach cottages were in rough shape and needed to be retired, and these new homes have refreshed the look of Estero Island - and have also changed its look and feel.

But it's time to stop wishing - and maybe, pretending - the island was the same as yesteryear. It has changed, it is changing, and it's going to continue changing. TPI-FMB is the next logical step, and we're sure there will be other developments down the road. What may make TPI-FMB unique will be the work the developer did with the community to produce a development with public and private benefits balanced. Not every developer will make the same effort.

Those who think this development will be the one single thing to ruin the island forever are willfully putting blinders on to ignore what's already happening.

It was a point that Town Council member Anita Cereceda brought up when the council was talking about TPI's compatibility with its surrounding neighbors on Crescent Street and Primo Drive, and Palermo Circle, just beyond.

Ms. Cereceda pointed out that once the old homes on Crescent were torn down, they'd be replaced by 40-plus-feet tall houses and compatibility wouldn't be a question.

She's right.

What hasn't changed on Fort Myers Beach is the true character of the community and the people who live here. When we talk to visitors to the island, many of them say they love the friendly people and the laid-back atmosphere - and its residents say the same thing. Many of those visitors will probably become residents someday because of the magnetic draw Fort Myers Beach can exude. It's a place for everyone. You can sit down and have a beer with a retired Fortune 500 CEO or the bartender who just got off her shift, and everyone's on the same page.

It's still a real community - not just a vacation spot.

That's what Fort Myers Beach needs to covetously guard, because that's what really matters.

Observer editorial

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