Part II: Items to be addressed by the Boca Grande Community Planning Association
STAFF REPORT – Island residents who took the Boca Grande Community Planning Survey gave their views on two topics familiar to islanders – sidewalk amenities and parking. The chart below shows the responses about sidewalk amenities. Parking was not included in the survey, but many respondents still wrote in comments about problems with parking on the island.
Overwhelmingly, survey respondents expressed how important it is to maintain Boca Grande’s familiar and quiet environment, and the role outdoor living plays. One comment was, “Sitting outside is part of the charm of Boca Grande.” Sidewalk amenities that may contribute – sidewalk tables, benches, store racks and the like – have been a sore subject since an anonymous complaint triggered Lee County enforcement against a number of Boca Grande establishments, including the Inn Bakery.
Support is strongest for outdoor dining and seating. Support is lower for store racks and displays. A typical comment was “These things are integral parts of the fabric that makes Boca Grande & Gasparilla Island special.”
At the same time there is a clear understanding that access for our handicapped fellow citizens and safety for everyone are important. Most comments acknowledged that the right balance must be found. One comment was, “Dining tables and store racks, if allowed, must allow for handicapped accessibility. In front of The Barnichol and The Inn Bakery (it is) absolutely impossible for walking other than the street. Safety hazard.”
Another was, “Please make sure that there is spacing on sidewalks to accommodate the handicapped.”
The current Boca Grande Community Plan includes no provisions for sidewalk dining or seating, and it is a topic that the Boca Grande Community Planning Association will address. The message from the community is clear.
Parking was not a survey topic. At the BGCPA public meeting at the Community Center on January 27, Ted Hoopes, the immediate past president of the BGCPA and a director, said that parking would not be a topic for the Association’s work. He pointed out that there is an existing Boca Grande Parking Advisory Committee established in 2015 by Lee County.
The Parking Committee was appointed to work with county staff and the Fire and Sheriff’s Departments to resolve the problems of chaotic and illegal parking and emergency vehicle access on the beach streets. Currently chaired by Mary O’Bannon, the Parking Committee meets regularly to monitor parking and safety issues and make recommendations for changes to the Gasparilla Island Parking Ordinance (Ord. 91-35).
Lee County has been responsive and has provided new signage as well as Parking Rangers to assist with enforcement. Lynne Seibert, a member of the BGCPA is also a member of the Parking Committee. The other members are Deb Martin, Sandy Melvin, Chris Cowperthwait, Lt. Jeff Corkhill of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Chief C.W. Blosser of the Boca Grande Fire Department and Joe Wier of Lee County Parks & Recreation. The BGCPA will make all of the survey results available to the Parking Committee.
But, of course, parking was a major concern of residents who responded to the survey – leading the list of general comments made by respondents.
“We need to get parking under control asap … we do not want to become another Sanibel Island!”
At the same time some respondents worried about too much regulation.
“Be careful that you do not overreact to a perceived traffic problem that may only be a problem one week or one month a year. Compared to Naples, we find the village quite manageable.”
While the largest number of comments in the general comments section of the survey related to parking, another hot topic was the regulation or safety of golf carts. More on that in a later article.