BREAKING: Lee County Commissioners strike Gilchrist from agenda

October 28, 2016
By Marcy Shortuse

map-of-gilchrist-improvementBY MARCY SHORTUSE – Lee County Commissioners sent out an email on Friday, Oct. 28 stating that agenda item 26 regarding the Gilchrist Avenue meeting landscape project in Boca Grande has been stricken from the November 1 meeting agenda.
In the email Assistant County Manager Douglas L. Meurer said the issue is no longer slated to be discussed. The contents are as follows:
Based on further review of pricing of the plan, it was determined the value of the palm tree replacement falls below $100,000. Because it’s below $100,000, the County Manager has signature authority to proceed with this project and has instructed the Lee County Department of Transportation to proceed with all due haste.
We have pre-approved vendors who do landscaping work with DOT and have already put them on notice of this plan, which represents the same project that was to be considered by the Board. The process of locating trees and materials to be used has started. The County will provide the landscaping immediately following the completion of the repaving project that’s happening now. We anticipate the landscaping will be in place by the end of the calendar year.
Lee County will not take any actions to interrupt the traditional parking habits of Boca Grande residents and visitors, including the prohibition of overnight parking.
See more about this in next week’s Boca Beacon.
BY MARCY SHORTUSE – Agenda item 26. That is the rather innocuous name of a precedent-setting topic of discussion for Lee County Commissioners on Tuesday, Nov. 1. Agenda Item 26 is Gilchrist Avenue parking, and commissioners will be voting on a final plan, thereby hopefully putting a very well-worn controversy to rest.
The proposal to be presented to county commissioners includes the addition of 66 palm trees along Gilchrist between 1st and 5th Streets.
That is all.
This decision is explained in the line item notes on the posted agenda.
“Lee County staff has been engaged in discussions with various stakeholder groups for the last two years regarding improvements to the Gilchrist Avenue median in Boca Grande,” the agenda item report reads. “The median has been used for parking by various groups for many years and has actually been considered as parking in the approvals of church expansions and served to meet parking requirements for the additional capacity …
“One group has advocated landscaping upgrades on the median, but continuation of parking on medians from 1st Street to 5th Street … another group has advocated for landscape improvements and the elimination of parking on the median. Some residents along Gilchrist have expressed concerns with the ongoing median parking, related to visual and property value degradation, as well as safety concerns … unfortunately, there is not community consensus on a specific proposal or option to regulate or limit parking …”
The report continues.
“After multiple meetings with the stakeholder groups, Lee County DOT has been unable to facilitate an agreement between the stakeholder representatives. This proposal will             upgrade the landscaping by adding the palms that were previously in place. The parking will continue to be allowed as in the past. By approaching the issue this way, Lee County will not be investing in upgrades or restrictions that may or may not be acceptable a few years from now. This approach keeps all options available for future considerations.”
Lee County commissioners recently approved the renovation of the public parking lot at the west end of 5th Street, next to The Gasparilla Inn Beach Club. The amount of parking will increase from 46 to 91 spaces there.
The cost of the additional palm trees planted on Gilchrist will be approximately $100,000.
The meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 1 begins at 9:30 a.m. in Commission Chambers, 2120 Main Street, Fort Myers.