Beach-access resident rebuts last week’s editorial

To the Editor:

I was disappointed to read the editorial, “The parking-challenged ghosts of Boca Grande” on July 22nd. I found it mean-spirited and inaccurate, seemingly intended to foster an antagonistic relationship between so-called selfish beach street property owners and everyone who parks on these streets.

As a homeowner and president of our neighborhood association, I can tell you our aim is quite to the contrary.

We would like everyone to have a good experience on Boca Grande beaches with a minimum of disruption to homeowners (Lee County Ordinance 91-35 Policy VIII.B.4 “… to avoid unnecessary disruption to adjacent neighborhoods”). After all, those of us who live on beach streets have rights too.

We expect people who park on these streets to exercise a modicum of civilized behavior. This does not include blocking driveways, leaving trash behind, relieving themselves in the street and on the beach, drinking (already prohibited by law), swearing and generally engaging in disruptive behavior. I have a rogues’ gallery of pictures to back these assertions up.

I have lived in our neighborhood (7th through 19th Sts.) for 17 years. There have been no significant problems on our streets until the last few years. People who parked and went to the beach were generally considerate and well behaved.

Recently there has been an exponential increase in people coming onto the island and using island facilities. This has produced over-parking (30-40 cars per street) and many of the problems mentioned above.

The HD 7-19 Homeowners Assoc. was formed last fall to try to deal with these problems and create a pleasant beach experience for all concerned. The Parking Advisory Committee already existed, but with only one beach-access member. Our group felt the people living on the streets understood the parking problems best and could offer practical solutions. We hired a lawyer and engineer to help us understand the legal parameters. Contrary to the editorial, we have never been “… invisible people out there, people trying to cut deals and makes agreements down in Fort Myers, brandishing checkbooks and promises of support to local politicians.” Nor are we “litigious.” I find these assertions insulting. We have been open and above-board in everything we’ve done.

As for the blocking of 13th St., this was not proposed or initiated by HD 7-19. This was one resident acting on his own. Our organization had nothing to do with it.

HD 7-19 is currently working with Lee County to solve our problems. We have proposed a number of changes that we think would be helpful and have submitted them to the GICIA, the full Parking Advisory Committee, the County and your newspaper. We are waiting to hear back from the County. Boca Grande has always been a friendly, accepting place to live, with an all-for-one and one-for-all spirit. Pitting one group against another doesn’t help anyone. I hope we can all work together and solve these parking problems in the near future.

Chris Cowperthwait President,
HD 7-19 Neighborhood Assoc. Boca Grande