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Civic & Community Corner: Efforts to get traffic signal under way

May 17, 2017
By Mike Land , North Fort Myers Neighbor

The North Fort Myers Civic Association is planning an organizational meeting from 4- 6 p.m and a gala cocktail party from 6-8 p.m. on June 2 in the Dolphin Room, Capt. Fishbone's at the Shell Factory, courtesy of its member, great friend and benefactor Tom Cronin.

From 4-6 p.m. there will be a community forum where all the communities of North Fort Myers, one of this town's strengths, will meet to discuss common problems and solutions. If you are an officer or manager of any North Fort Myers community you are invited to attend. Also from 4-6 p.m. is a pre-organizational meeting for the NFM Cultural Arts Center movement. Anyone interested in taking part is invited.

The cocktail party will feature discussions about moving NFM forward and the start of the NFM Cultural Arts Center movement. The featured speaker will be Rachel Busch, the point person for Lee County Economic Development assigned to help North Fort Myers. It will be a great affair, courtesy of our wonderful friends, local philanthropists Tom and Pam Cronin, proprietors of The Shell Factory, with free entertainment, hors d'ourves and a free first cocktail and a free raffle for three dinners for two. All of you who have ever thought of becoming a patron of the arts, or having a facility seating 500 people for concerts and shows or being an artist, student or lover of any of the visual, performing or fine arts should make it your business to invite your friends, mark your calendars, come help us out to get this noble concept started and call for reservations at 239-281-4882 or 239-543-1364.

I met last Tuesday at The Shell Factory with Tom Cronin, owner of that iconic facility; his very efficient Executive Secretary, Jessica Starrie; his Chief Financial Officer, Ric Tupper; County Commissioner Brian Hamman; his ever-efficient assistant, Matt Spielman; Steve Walls of Florida Department of Transportation; and Barbara J. Oliveira and Ken Krysztof, residents from Tamiami Village

The entrance to Tamiami Village is directly across Route 41 from the main entrance to The Shell Factory, and the main purpose of the meeting was to explore the possibility of installing a traffic signal at that site where a car crash recently caused a fatality.

And this was not the first car crash at that location, and not the only fatality.

The traffic light was requested by Mr. Cronin immediately after the crash and The North Fort Myers Civic Association passed a motion at its April meeting supporting the request and an email to that effect was sent to FDOT.

Steve Walls expressed a desire to help, restricted of course by Federal guidelines for traffic signal installations, and has already set the wheels in motion for a traffic study and would expedite them procedure as best he could. He observed that if not, he could install a "Right Turn Only" sign at Tamiami Village's exit to prevent pedestrians and vehicles from crossing that intersection. I chimed in that there is also a potential for a car crash when approaching from the north intending to turn left into The Shell Factory. I suggested a red-to-green arrow and possibly trimming back some of the landscaping on the median strip to the immediate south. Mr. Walls agreed to check out the visibility issue.

Never a shrinking violet, I also suggested that the FDOT:

1.) Expedite the installation of the traffic signal already agreed upon at Rt. 41 and Herons Glen Boulevard;

2.) Continue its "sidewalks along Rt. 41" project northerly another mile or two to service Pine Lakes, Magnolia Landing and Herons Glen;

3.) Install landscaping in the median strips of the northerly few miles of Business 41, where millions were spent to widen the road a couple of years ago:

4.) Install premium or showcase landscaping on the prominent "point of the fork" where the two 41's meet in front?? of the Racetrack gas station in it?? final ??weeks before opening. Thousands drive past this spot daily and it would be ideal for beautificaiton.??

Commissioner Brian Hamman informed all of us that at meeting earlier that day the county commission authorized pertinent county staff to study the possibility of adding "mixed use zoning" to the Town Center area to make it more attractive for investors and developers to create a combination of working with living facilities nearby, as recommended by the Market Assessment Report recently unveiled. This could be a big deal. Let's wait and hope and see.

The North Fort Myers Design Review Panel, which meets the first Monday of each month at 6 p.m. at The NFM Recreation Center had a very interesting meeting. Gregg Makepeace, long-time quiet but persistent champion for North Fort Myers moved to California. Gregg was a moving force in the creation of this and The NFM Community Planning Panel and was a member of both panels for nearly 10 years. His vacant seat will be filled by Rudy BerndImaier, a chemist and inventor, who will now turn his inquiring mind to reviewing proposed projects, blueprints, site plans and elevations.

The DRP approved three small uncomplicated projects and then took a long time to CONDITIONALLY approve the proposed new $13 million dollar library to be located at the site of the current library with the addition of two adjacent lots to the immediate south, needed to house the new facility which will be three times the size of the current library. And by the way, the county will be re-locating the library to temporary quarters just before the old one is demolished, at the northwest corner of Business 41 and Pine Island Road, best known for the closed Buddy Freddy's Buffet and the distinctive swirl-topped Tastee Freezee building. Yum! This will be its location until the summer of 2019, the anticipated date for the opening of the new library. Watch this column for a heads up as to the date that the current library moves to the temporary quarters.

Kevin Williams of BSS and W Architects presented the proposed library site plan, floor plan and the elevations, all four sides. Frank Barrett, chair of the Library Task Force, Jessica Reed and Linda Yorde, President of the Friends of the Library all spoke in favor of the floor plans, with Jessica asking for some traffic safety modifications. There was considerable pessimism raised by the panelists to three "reading gardens" along the exterior of the building which had open slats above them instead of a closed roof, thus making them virtually unusable during the hot and rainy summer months, with high cleaning maintenance the rest of the year. Mr. Williams stated that he had used these in other libraries that he designed and they were popular. I suppose they are useful for chatting with friends, flirting and talking on cell phones, all of which make it difficult to do any real reading in these "talking gardens." Those noisy activities could just as easily be done in the open plaza outside which can hold over 200 people. For the same cost and square footage involved in these three gardens, the architects could have designed a room for a dedicated NFM Cultural Arts Center, which I had requested months earlier and which was mentioned a few times in the Market Assessment Report as a "need" for the area, which was holding back development.

So instead the NFM Civic Association has initiated a campaign to form a nucleus group to create a North Fort Myers Cultural Arts Center. NFM has no facility, and no one with a room, where, if you are not a resident of a community having some cultural arts (usually water color painting and pottery 101), or you're not over 50 and a member of Share Club and taking a class in "Social Painting" at the Rec Center, you can take a class or course in any type of visual, fine or performing art!

But back to the library presentation to the NFM Design Review Panel. A real donnybrook broke out when we got to the exterior design of the building. The NFM Land Development Code requires "Old Florida" architecture, and gives pages of examples and many times this panel that we are trying to change the "face" of NFM one project at a time. Mr. Williams maintained that this proposed building had some "elements" of Old Florida, but none of the panelists could see it and several called it "modernistic." John Gardner pointed out that some of the panelists had devoted the last decade to drafting legislation and getting it approved by the County Commissioners and urging it on previous applicants. Charlie Krebs felt it was far from Old Florida and that the building should be similar to the adjacent Rec Center which uses the same driveway as the library, to create a "campus" appearance. I felt it was as affront to tear down the library which now has a seamed metal roof which is the classic element of Old Florida, and which no doubt was the inspiration for the Rec Center built next door three years ago with the same roof and portico, to create a modern-looking structure. After extended discussion including the suggestion that some of the roof covering be painted the same color as the Rec Center, Yours truly made a motion which passed that because the library staff is happy with the floor plan, and a lot of time has gone into this building, and so not to delay this project any further, we recommended to County Staff that we approve this project the the proviso that the architects try to bring the exterior design more into the mold of Old Florida architecture so as to blend with the appearance of the adjacent Rec Center to create a "campus look."

The NFM Civic Center held an Earth Day Rally on Saturday, April 22, at the Hancock Bridge Plaza on Rt. 41 between Perkins Restaurant and Regions Bank. With plenty of signs held by demonstrators along Rt. 41 and the usual Civic Association green tent manned by our Veep, Rudy Berndlmaier, a small group including long-time county commissioner and environmental champion Ray Judah demonstrated the basic cry of save the planet, environmental protection, clean water in the Caloosahatchee, the "pollution" signs at North Shore Park and elimination of the drainage flooding at this shopping center. We did get some TV coverage for this first-time effort and hopefully next year we will have more participation.

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 mike-land@live.com if you have some event, project or idea that you would like in this column, or with any comments or questions. Visit northfortmyerscivicassociation.com.

 
 

 

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