NFM Civic Association: North Fort Myers: Working together
I’d like to begin by saying thank you, Mike Land. This was his column for years and he filled it with interesting and entertaining news about North Fort Myers and the North Fort Myers Civic Association. As one of 12 Directors on the Board and the Public Relations Officer appointed by Doug Dailey, our new President, I’ve been tasked with continuing the job.
So here goes.
The second Tuesday of each month the Civic Association meets. Twice a month I’ll be writing to 1) keep you informed of what happened at the last meeting and 2) share with you what’s coming up at the next. You may ask, doesn’t the local news provide this information? Aren’t there articles about what’s happening in North Fort Myers? Yes there are and Chuck Ballaro, the North Fort Myers Neighbor writer that covers the Civic Association, does an excellent job for this newspaper. But I’m not limited to the reporters’ credo -who, what, where, when and why. I can editorialize, offer opinion, and make suggestions.
So, what happened this month? The newly elected Directors were introduced as well as the new officers. Doug Dailey outlined an agenda that included bird dogging code enforcement (let’s do something about the deteriorating Hancock Square signage on Cleveland and Hancock Bridge Parkway) as well as working with Lee County to identify small businesses that might be able to take advantage of a North Fort Myers Business Revitalization grant. Yes, there is a $2,000,000 pilot program funded by Lee County for infrastructure improvements, facade restoration, and even demolition and replacement. Matching funds (with limits) are available to an approved business property owner after the improvements are made. The goals include expansion, beautification, infrastructure improvement, and even start-up/demolition/replacement support for new businesses. However, one criteria for the matching funds is that the property value increase by 50 percent for Fee Assistance up to 100 percent facade improvement with different requirements in between for demolition, infrastructure, flood proofing, and “keystone” projects. These thresholds seem a little high and the Civic Association will talk to the County about revisiting them.
I probably should tell you what a “civic association” is. Well, according to Wikipedia it’s an organization whose official goal is to “improve neighborhoods through volunteer work by its members.” Guess I’m not going to get rich doing this! The IRS says it a little more broadly. In granting a civic association a tax exemption under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code (and yes, I’m a retired lawyer), the association must be “an organization, not organized for profit, and operated exclusively to promote social welfare.” There you have it. Pretty broad.
The NFM Civic Association is more focused. It would like to see responsible and orderly business growth in NFM and supports the North Fort Myers Community Plan (and Lee Plan goal 28) to improve the community’s livability and economic vitality. Longer term this includes creation of a town center along U.S. 41 between the Caloosahatchee River and Pondella Road. The NFM Civic Association supports growth (not pawn shops or mini storage units, although there is a place for them) but rather cultural buildings like an Arts Center. Also mixed use developments, combining residential, commercial, and retail in one project could enhance the community. These mixed use developments might have a plaza or some other interesting functional and beautification feature. Going vertical for a few stories, if not more, rather than horizontal, would offer the developer and North Fort Myers square footage while avoiding sprawl. Identifying vacant buildings that might be upgraded or repurposed, working with Develop Lee, the County department responsible for NFM development, is also a suggested priority.
But more importantly, the Civic Association will foster synergies, benefits that result from working with other groups, together, to obtain similar goals. Isn’t that the way it should be? Working together? The Association was invited as a guest of the NFM Chamber of Commerce to A Taste of Fort Myers last month, and it hopes to partner with the Chamber on similar events in the future as well as do the same with groups like the Rotary. Supporting fundraising for college scholarships would be an example of a local activity the Civic Association could support, providing volunteers and hosting events.
And, tying this all together, the Association wants North Fort Myers to have a strong, exciting identity. To this end there will be a competition. Everyone is welcome to submit a slogan or slogan/logo. Next meeting is April 10. Bring your idea and we’ll all vote. The winner gets a $50 gift certificate! See you there- 7 p.m., 2000 North Recreation Way (North Fort Myers Recreation Center), North Fort Myers!