To maintain safe and efficient traffic flow at all times through the toll booths, along the causeway and along the Intercoastal waterway. To make fair and balanced decisions which impact a diverse group of stakeholders including owners, travelers, local businesses and employees.
That’s what was printed at the bottom of the agenda of the GIBA quarterly meeting April 20, 2016. That is GIBA’s mission statement.
One thing was very clear. Most members of the GIBA Board are listening not to the opinions of a diverse group, but only to a part of their constituency, those who are leaning toward weight restrictions to regulate who comes on the island. I tried to articulate my feelings at the meeting, but I was so angry that all I heard was a small, quivering voice coming out of me. I’m going to try to be a little more to the point by writing about them.
The Board was addressed by four of the largest business owners on the island. They told the members how they are hobbled by weight restrictions on the bridge. They told stories of having to take small trucks off island to unload larger trucks that didn’t make the 40,000 pound limit placed on the new state-of-the-art bridge. According to Florida DOT regulations, the bridge has to support 80,000 pounds. They presented evidence that increasing limits would produce lower truck traffic. They pointed out that the trucks would not get larger, just carry more. The answer they got from Board Member Lee Majors was that a majority of people he has spoken to don’t want a higher weight limit … because of tour buses.
Here we go again. The Boca Grande society of social engineering has decided tour buses are evil, depositing their cargo of crazed tourists onto the Island hellbent on stealing ashtrays. The Board’s real engineer told us that the bridge, which has been been built to hold 80,000 pounds, has to be tested to see if the bridge can hold 80,000 pounds. That the “harmonics” of the bridge are off and are creating bad vibrations.
As a stakeholder in the bridge, I sure hope we didn’t buy a $21 million footbridge. I surely expect our 80,000 pound bridge to be able to handle 80,000 pounds. After all, that was one of the reasons we were given in the pitch to replace the old bridge. I hope the bad harmonics will give way to a little harmony from the Board with all of its constituents.
Clearly to me, if you pony up a couple of greenbacks you can get a variance to these restrictions. The Board came up with a pay-to-play exception to the weight restrictions so Boca Grande Isles can replace their bridge, which will require a lot of heavy structural material to complete. This one-time expense might not be much to the Boca Grand Isle Homeowners Association, but this will be one more ongoing expense for OUR business community. We cannot add this cost to our Island business owners’ overhead, which is already too high. But let’s not lose sight of one very important point. That point being, the bridge will hold more than 40,000 pounds – one has to just “tip” the toll attendant. And by the way, the new Isles bridge has to be built to the standards of the Florida DOT regulations, namely 80,000 pounds, just like any other bridge in the state.
Once again we heard that we can’t get a consensus until everybody’s back. Until everyone’s back? You mean like the hoards of ochlophobists who return in the winter? The crowd that booed and cheered at previous GIBA meetings like they were at a hockey game? The gated community crowd? The one’s who want the bridge weight restrictions? The ones who want a checkpoint?
I for one am sick of being treated like a second-class citizen because I actually live here, and I am sick that the powers that be are not listening to the business owners and employees who work here, who work for and service all of us. They are as much a part of this island as anyone who actually owns a piece of it.
There was only one Board member who stood up for all the stakeholders, David Hayes. Back in the day when Boca Bay was being marketed, its developers photographed models on Banyan Street, at the lighthouse, frolicking in the sand on the public beaches dressed in 1930-ish garb, living the high life in Old Florida, Old Boca Grande. You know the Old Florida lifestyle: Come on down be free, be open. Boca Bay was to be “the community within the community.” When it was opened, the rest of the community was forced to stay on the outside of the gate and was not allowed in.
I don’t live in a gated community. I don’t need more rules or restrictions on my lifestyle. That’s what I love about Boca Grande. If folks want to gather and feel secure behind walls, that’s fine. We respect your boundaries, and we know it’s against the rules to venture into your community without an invitation. You have created your islands of solitude, so please respect the rest of us who don’t want to live that way. You may have restrictions on your deeds, but you’re not going to put restrictions on this island’s soul. Please don’t think you can turn our bridge into a gate. Please don’t think you can sacrifice our lifestyle or livelihoods to make your stay a little more comfortable.