Beach Battle Rages Over Waterfront Seating
In Fort Myers, beach chair vendors and beachgoers are battling for the sand as the beach becomes more crowded. Tourists and local residents who bring their own chairs to the beach are being told to move from in front of chair rental stands. Town personnel have been receiving complaints of aggressive vendors, rental chairs blocking views, and walkers and bicyclists being unable to cross the beach.
“I’ve lived here seven years and I don’t know what’s public, where I can sit, and where I can’t sit,” a resident told WINKNews.com.
The town has an uphill battle ahead if it wants to regulate the beach. To start, beach chair rental vendors only need a Certificate of Use to set up shop. This is their only interaction with the town unless the business changes hands, when the new owner would be required to obtain his or her own certificate.
The location of the chairs is ambiguous, as well. Currently, Town code requires all beach chairs to be at least 15 feet from the water line at high tide, a location that is difficult to determine without a survey. The chairs must be pulled back during sea turtle season, as well. Some citizens raised concerns about whether businesses were even allowed to operate on the public beach, as opposed to on private property.
The Town Local Planning Agency was tasked with reviewing the issue and recommending possible modifications to policy. Suggested solutions include instituting some sort of licensing system, so that licenses of problematic vendors could be revoked. Others include clearer definitions of where chairs are permitted to be placed, and limiting the number of vendors permitted on the beach.
The Fort Myers Beach Town Council hopes to have a solution before parasailing and personal watercraft licenses are renewed in October.