The North Fort Myers Civic Association met the second Tuesday in Sept.13, from 7 to 9 p.m. Guest speaker was Ronni Woods, State Coordinator of Florida Main Street, who explained the program which has benefitted numerous nearby towns such as Punta Gorda, Arcadia and Sarasota since the program was instituted in 1985. Before the meeting, Vice President Rudy Berndlmaier and I took her on a tour of:
1.) The Coral Cottages, a cluster of homes on Cypress Street in the Cabana City area, which were built in 1943 with interesting exteriors of rock-like coral clusters;
2.) and our Business 41 from the Bridge to The Shell Factory, followed by dinner at the always-good Capt'n Fishbones Restaurant.
Ronni is considering these two areas as a possible project recipient, which carries with it lots of education, publicity, training, facade grants of up to $50,000 and possible improvement grants.
Ms. Wood then spoke to the Civic Association and explained The Florida Main Street Program, with its benefits of revitalizing downtowns by improving the appearance and economic stability of historic (more than 50 years old) business districts. This builds a positive image for the community, creates job opportunities, saves tax dollars, preserves the community's historic resources and helps to control sprawl. It is a technical assistance, self-help program requiring community support and an understanding that positive change takes time.
The Main Street approach advocates a return to community self-reliance and emphasizes the downtown's traditional assets of personal service, local ownership, unique architecture and a sense of community. It utilizes organization, promotion, design and economic restructuring to accomplish these goals.
Ms. Wood readily conceded that our second busiest thoroughfare met the first program requirement of being "blighted," and now she and her researchers are going to do research to see if enough of the buildings on Business 41 are 50 years or over.
And that is where the cooperation of my readers comes in: If you have old pictures or newspaper articles, old deeds or any other documentation of the age of any buildings along Business 41, please get copies of them to me asap!
The next evening, Wednesday, Sept. 14, the NFM Chamber of Commerce and The NFM Civic Association co-hosted a "Meet and Greet the General Election Candidates' Forum" from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Rec Center. We invited all federal, county and state candidates from our area and surprisingly, 20 of them showed up (some from as far away as Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Winter Garden and Venice) and talked one-on-one to the public during the "Meet" part of the program. Those participating were:
U.S. SENATE: Rubio, through his stand-in, Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen; Khoury, Machat, Kaplan and Nathan.
U.S. CONGRESS, 17TH DISTRICT: FREEMAN AND SAWYER
U.S. CONGRESS, 19TH DISTRICT: DAVID BYRON
STATE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: CALDWELL AND SCOTT
COUNTY COMMISSIONER: MANN, ZIGROSSI AND HAAS
SUPERVISOR, BOARD OF ELECTIONS: HARRINGTON AND DOYLE
SCHOOL BOARD: ARMSTRONG and KUCKEL; MORGAN AND QUACKENBUSH
NORTH FORT MYERS FIRE DISTRICT: SUSAN DAGGETT
The candidates were called to the speakers' tables as a group according to the office being sought, and the format set by our skillful moderator, Skip Mitchell was: 1.) Two minutes for each candidate to make an opening presentation;
2.) After all candidates had "opened," each fielded questions from the audience with a limit of one minute for each answer, and after all questions had been answered by all candidates in that race;
3.) Two minutes for each candidate to make a closing presentation.
Although the election is two months away, which we did in deference to the many mail-in and absentee voters who will be getting their ballots soon, the candidates were all well-prepared and combative. The proceedings went right up to the nine p.m. closing time. We were still putting away chairs 20 minutes later, but all who attended left as more fully informed and educated voters, and we had fulfilled our duty to the public.
The North Fort Myers Design Review Panel met jointly with The NFM Community Planning Panel on Tuesday, Sept. 6 at 6 p.m. at the Rec Center. They heard an application by Planner Greg Stuart on behalf of Gasparilla Marine to add a vacant parcel of land a quarter of an acre in size, contiguous to the parcel they own on N. Cleveland Ave., formerly a Sunoco gasoline service station, which they propose converting to a boat sales and service operation. The Design Review Panel voted unanimously to recommend to the County Staff that they have no objection to annexation of this additional parcel to the project.
There currently exists one opening on these two panels. Anyone interested in filling this volunteer vacancy, who can consistently attend the monthly meeting on the first Tuesday of the month from 6 to 8 or 9 p.m. at The NFM Rec Center and who has an interest in reviewing proposed development projects and planning issues should send me their resume.
As most of you may recall, Lee County held a Town Hall Meeting on August 29 with the architect selected for design of our new $13 million Library, Kevin Williams present along with pertinent county and library mucky-mucks, to give the public an opportunity for input as to library programming. A capacity audience offered suggestions and Yours Truly offered the following two cents:
1.) Create a bus stop for the Library, which is next to the $10 million Recreation Center. They are half a mile from the nearest bus stop - a tough walk in the Florida heat. We lobbied the County and Lee Tran for this three years ago when the Rec Center opened, to no avail. Lee Tran has rejected our pleas by claiming that adding another stop would make them late for all other stops and cause missing a connection to other buses at Merchants Crossing. With this kind of reasoning it means that we will never have a new Bus Stop anywhere on the entire route??? And it should be done NOW - not three years from now when the new library opens. Statistics show that usage at the Rec Center has far exceeded the projected numbers and usage at our existing library far exceeds that of Bonita's, which is also getting a new library. AND, we are the only Rec Center/Library complex in the county without a bus stop!
2.) Make the planned exterior plaza around the library as large as can be. I pointed out that because North Fort Myers is not an incorporated city, it has no city hall or town plaza as a central gathering place to use to promote community pride, public participation or a sense of "Community." Such a plaza would permit a town party, a New Year's Eve function, a Valentine's Day dance, etc. and also be a venue for art shows, concerts and other events.
3.) A Cultural Arts Center where classes in watercolor, acrylics, sculpture, ceramics, pottery and the performing arts can occur for all ages and levels and where the participants can display and sell their works. And if there is not room for this in the new structure, to retain a portion of the existing structure for this purpose. The present building is not sufficient for the technology needs of a new library, but is sufficient for a cultural arts center.
In case you haven't given the county and its architect your input yet, you can still do it until the end of September by picking up a paper copy at our Library or going online to www.leegov.com/library, and clicking on Library Projects. Please do it now-the deadline is right around the corner.
"PUBLIC APATHY IS THE PLAGUE OF THE 21ST CENTURY! VOLUNTEER-IT'S GOOD FOR THE MIND AND THE HEART." MIKE LAND
Contact me at 239-823-3631 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have some event, project or idea that you would like in this column, or with any comments or questions.