Island resident responds to ‘flawed recommendation’

May 15, 2015
By Boca Beacon

Gilchrist Avenue,Boca Grande,Gasparilla Island,Boca Beacon
Gilchrist in the 1940s

(The following was sent to Lee County Commissioners by Boca Grande resident Bill Regnery on May 11. By his request it is printed here)
I read Executive Director Misty Nichols’ letter detailing the GICIA’s decision to support the parking plan endorsed by the Churches and Gasparilla Inn Group.
While I was disappointed with the outcome I was pleased that the organization no longer mischaracterizes the design as the “Community Plan” which replaced the “Crowninshield Plan.” This progression leads me to hope that the GICIA board is inclining in the direction of Lord Keyes who famously explained his change of heart regarding some investment advice with the observation that “when the facts change I change my mind.”
Mrs. Nichols summarized the board’s action by reporting that “Our vote was based on these determinations. There has been significant building on Boca Grande over the last 15 years, with a resulting increase in Island population, hence an increase in congregations and church based activities.”
The claim of “significant building on Boca Grande” is the key predicate. Mrs. Nichols’ undocumented claim did not square with my memory so I took his
Lordship’s advise and I sought the facts. I consulted the records of the Gasparilla Island Water Association (see table above).
During the last 15 years 165 residential water hookups were installed on the whole of Gasparilla Island. This amounts to an increase of 9.2 percent which on a per annum basis is 0.60 percent This gain is so modest that it deserves to be denominated in financial lingo as 60 basis points.
The greatest increase in traffic has been commuters and not residents. In part this distinction is explained by Reverend Brightly’s boast In his “Pastor’s Corner” that “A third of our (Methodist) regular members reside in the various communities surrounding Boca Grande.”
While traffic like weather gives people something to complain about the congestion in 2014 was not seriously different from that of 2000. Here, I hasten
to add that this will change big time with the infill of the 30,000 vacant and shovel ready lots just north of the island on the Cape Haze peninsula.
But for the moment and with specific reference to the historic Gilchrist median the problem is not general congestion but concentrated congestion brought about by decision of the responsible lay and ordained authorities not to provide onsite parking when both the Methodists and then Episcopal churches were expanded in the aughts. This self inflicted and festering wound can be closed only by dispersing congregant vehicles. Providentially, there are literally hundreds of available parking slots (1) within two blocks of church row to
accept the the average of only 106 cars (2) that parked this season on the median for the second and busiest service at all churches.
The GICIA support of the plan advanced by the churches and Gasparilla Inn Group was based on an incorrect assumption about the island’s recent growth and is consequently flawed; the Commissioners should disregard the recommendation.
Bill Regnery
Boca Grande