Historic Preservation Board meeting begins with request for NHR input from community

February 13, 2021
By Marcy Shortuse

BY SUSAN HANAFEE – The chairman of the Boca Grande Historic Preservation Board on Wednesday urged all residents to let their voices be heard on a proposal to nominate a section of the historic district to the National Register of Historic Places.

“Since a national listing would create an attraction and additional tourist interest in Boca Grande, I believe it is the duty of this board to consider the impact on the current local historic district,” Jerry Edgerton said, speaking at the conclusion of the regularly scheduled board meeting.

“I invite those outside of the affected area to also participate in the hearing,” he said, “as it appears this proposal could further impact parking and public sanitation issues in the district.”

The board is scheduled to take up the matter for the second time at its next meeting on March 10. The area in question includes 129 nominated resources and is roughly bounded by 5th Street West, Lee Avenue, 1st Street West and the Gulf of Mexico.

“There is a lot of discussion going on as to this proposal,” Edgerton added. “The notice process has not been thorough and took place during the time of COVID restrictions and the results are unknown. I encourage you to make your thoughts known to this board and to participate in the hearing process.”

Public seating in the Community Center auditorium where board meetings are held is restricted to approximately 40. Besides attending in person, Edgerton urged interested persons to send their written opinions to contact@BGHPB.org prior to the meeting.

The proposal was presented in September by Mikki Hartig, owner of Historical and Architectural Research Services in Sarasota, to the Lee County Historic Preservation Board in Fort Myers. Her original presentation included Gilchrist Avenue and its median, which has been the subject of controversy in regard to parking. Gilchrist is considered by Lee County to be a county-owned public right-of-way. Over the years, neighbors have sought to have all parking banned on the Gilchrist median.

The Boca Grande board rejected Hartig’s plan by a vote of 4-2 in November, citing confusion about the proposal and a lack of communication in its development. They said Hartig also failed to follow protocol by not first going to the Boca Grande board.

In December, the Lee County Board of County Commissioners requested that the Florida Bureau of Historic Preservation postpone a scheduled hearing on the matter until the commissioners and Boca Grande board could consider the request with Gilchrist Avenue removed as a historic resource by the nomination sponsor, Hartig.

Amanda Swindle, assistant county attorney, said prior to Wednesday’s meeting that the state did agree to postpone the hearing until May 6 and “we have received the revised request” dealing with the removal of Gilchrist Avenue.

Swindle said that once the Boca Grande historic board has decided whether to support or oppose the nomination, the item will go before the county commissioners in April.

“If either the historic board or the commissioners vote to support the nomination, the state will proceed with the hearing. However, if both boards oppose the nomination, no further action will be taken by the state unless an appeal is filed,” she said.

As part of Wednesday’s agenda, the board also approved requests for certificates of appropriateness for two residential projects in the Boca Grande historic district.

The first involves the remodel of a 1968 ranch-style home located on the north side of 18th Street West. The homeowner requested permission to construct additions to the north and south sides of the residence, along with an addition to a guest house on the property, to replace the existing pool permitted in 1989 and to relocate the south privacy wall further to the south.

Additionally, the homeowner petitioned to replace an existing asphalt shingle roof, which is approximately 14 years old, with a metal roof. While the roof change is a significant one that could run counter to the standards set by the Secretary of Interior for Rehabilitation, the Lee County planning staff suggested that metal roofs are common in Boca Grande both inside and outside the historic district. They are also “sturdier and more resistant to damage from weather and vermin,” staff noted.

The board voted unanimously to approve the project.

The design for a new home to be built on Lee Avenue between 4th and 5th streets also received the full support of the board.

The property is one of the few remaining pieces of vacant land in the downtown area and has Gasparilla Inn cottages to the north and east. The homeowner plans to build a single-family, one-story residence with an overall footprint of 3,841 square feet. The attractive residence will feature a white sand stucco exterior with casements windows and a metal roof.