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Civic & Community Corner: Proposed name change has raucus start, happy ending
July 19, 2017

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Wow! The monthly meeting of the NFM Civic Association on July 11 was one heckuva roller-coaster ride! I had announced in this column two weeks ago that at this meeting I was going to propose that we set in motion the wheels that would eventually change the name "North Fort Myers" after a three-month contest with a blue-ribbon panel of NFM residents deciding. I was glad that I got to state my reasons in that column because the following things occurred:

n I was inundated with requests by the local TV stations for interviews, and I gave televised interviews to NBC, ABC, CBS that were broadcasted several times each, and late Sunday night I got a call from FOX 4 News asking me to send them an email containing my reasoning, which I did. As I walked in to the Recreation Center on 7/11(a great date if you are a crapshooter from Atlantic City, which I am) I was approached by a news reporter and cameraman, and gave still another statement of my reasons.

n The meeting was overrun by standing room only (about 200, many standing room only people) angry and vociferous indignant long-time residents who were so busy screaming at the top of their lungs that it was impossible for me to state my reasons for the proposed name change. Most of them were wearing red T-shirts which I later learned was indicative of their attendance at and loyalty to, North Fort Myers High School. I have been looking for eight years to find something that the people of NFM cared about: -something that would engender civic pride, passion and public participation. And so here I accidentally stumbled upon the answer. They all attended North Fort Myers High School and they all had red shirts for the NFMHS Red Knights, and they were loyal to the high school and secondarily to the town that bore the same name.

n Someone had called the Sheriff and there were three deputies at the meeting. The head one kept advising me to "shut this meeting down," and I was saying that I was not going to do that because all these people had left their families and usual evening leisure pursuits to come attend this meeting and state their positions, and unless and until there was violence (which never happened), I was going to give them all the opportunity to step up to our microphone and verbalize what was on their mind. I later learned that some deputies were in the filled parking lot outside the NFM Recreation Center telling circling cars not to bother and go home because the meeting was being shut down, thereby discouraging additional crowds.

n Eventually they stopped shouting and demonstrating, and started listening to each other at our traveling microphone and it was apparent that many of them were learning for the first time that there was an organization named The North Fort Myers Civic Association that had been trying for 17 years to improve NFM, create public pride and participation; that I wrote a column in The NFM Neighbor; that The NFM Neighbor was the only newspaper dedicated to just news of NFM. As the meeting progressed they read the pamphlet that we had distributed explaining who we are and what we do; they read the Minutes of the last meeting and the Agenda of that night's meeting AND A STRANGE, UNEXPECTED THING HAPPENED! Members of this unruly audience got on line and started signing up to become members of the NFM Civic Association. When they were done, we had obtained 35 new members, by far the largest one-day membership drive we've ever had. Our Board of Directors then voted unanimously not to pursue a change of name, and then as we moved through the Agenda, another serendipitous happening occurred. four members of the previously hostile audience stepped up and got themselves elected as Directors on our Board of Directors. They are Holly Marth, Danny Ballard, Doug Dailey and Laura Malcolm Lewis, the latter also being elected as Secretary. Since then the three new directors (excluding Laura who as Secretary is exempt) agreed to assume portfolios of responsibility as follows:

MARTH- Community Outreach and Facebook

Dailey- Community Development and co-Director of Code Enforcement

Ballard- Liaison to State Legislature, NFMHS, Fire Department and Water Issues

The NFM Community Planning Panel and the NFM Design Review Panels meet jointly on the first Tuesday of the month at the Rec Center at 6 p.m. On July 11, The Design Review Panel convened at 6 and in one hour heard applications regarding five projects with the following results:

16451 Williams Road-Development Order

This was a requested re-submission of the project for revision of the landscaping to meet the NFM Land Development Code. Landscaping was revised to meet the LDC. Fencing at the perimeter was relocated to an acceptable configuration and landscaped. A motion was made and seconded to have no objection to the revised plan. The motion was approved.

Bayshore Garden Center-Administrative Amendment

A new plan was submitted showing a reduced number of buildings and impervious area. A motion was made and seconded to have no exception to the new plan. The motion was approved.

Gully Creek-Rezoning Request

A plan to construct 300-plus homes between Slater Road and Williams Road on land presently zoned agricultural was presented. Panel members questioned what impact the development would have on the traffic on a two-lane road would be, the density of the development and a concern about it being rezoned to residential in a primarily agricultural area. A resident representative also questioned the impact on the traffic and density on the area. A motion to have no objection was made and seconded with the proviso that a traffic study and more developed drawings be presented in future meetings.

Revolution Cable Park-Special Exception

A proposal to add inflatable water structures to the site presently providing water skiing via cables rather than speedboats, was presented. The panel questioned the need for such an exception, however, since the county asked the applicant to get it, a motion was made and seconded to have no objection to this project, which carried.

Lochmoor Plaza-Internet Caf/Video Arcade-Special Exception

A presentation to construct an internet cafe/video arcade at the site where one, with another owner, had existed was presented. The panel could find no restriction on this activity in the latest LDC. A motion was made and seconded to have no objection to this project. The motion was carried.

And these Volunteer Panels have one vacancy to be filled by one of my readers, who must be a NFM resident, lot or business owner. Contact me ahead of time if you are intereste - no pay, but you should see the benefits package! We have a person interested in filling the vacancies, but it is not a done deal yet - if you are interested contact me quickly because the voids will be filled at the next meeting, Aug. 1, at 6 p.m.

PUBLIC APATHY IS THE PLAGUE OF THE 21ST CENTURY! VOLUNTEER - IT'S GOOD FOR THE MIND AND THE HEART." - MIKE LAND

Contact me at 239-823-3631 or mike.nfmca@gmail.com if you have some event, project or idea that you would like in this column, or with any comments or questions. Visit northfortmyerscivicassociation.com.

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