The Weeks Fish Camp project changes course

A rusting dredge sits lazily on the dock where a commercial marina and seafood restaurant was to open on the site of the former Weeks Fish Camp across from the Hyatt Regency on Coconut Road in Bonita Springs.

Instead of the plan that received broad support last year, the owners of the property – Estero Bay Marine, Donovan and Sugar Mountain, all LLCs – are now considering gated luxury residences with a private marina, according to a new application. of planned development filed on October 29. .

“The developers who took over the project realized that the market dynamics had changed,” said their representative, broker-CEO of Land Solutions, Randy Thibaut, on Tuesday.

They also acquired more properties, bringing the site to 30.5 acres, all included in the new application.

“We’re going for a full plan and PUD amendment to higher density, residential use with condos, retirement homes, and townhouses,” Thibaut said. “The goal is to correct the market today.”

U.S. home sales reported by RealtyTrac last week showed sales of single-family homes and condos for the first three quarters of 2015 were higher than in any year since 2006.

City Manager Carl Schwing confirmed, “It looks like they are moving towards more residences, with an increase in density. We’ve accepted the application, but won’t have details until we do a staff report.

The mayor of Bonita disappointed

Located on Estero Bay with a direct shot at the Gulf of Mexico, Weeks Fish Camp’s location, though privately owned, had provided a foothold on the waterfront for generations of commercial and small boaters. Local kayak operators serving the public also operated there.

The property was sold to Estero Bay Marine LLC for $2.15 million in 2011.

In 2014, work began on a redevelopment plan hailed by city leaders, providing for 72 boat launches, dry storage for 150 boats, a marine outfitter and a three-storey seafood restaurant. floors overlooking Estero Bay. A resort hotel was eventually to follow.

“It’s hard not to be disappointed because what they had planned was a way for the public to use the waterfront,” Mayor Ben Nelson said Wednesday. “Not just for Bonita Springs, but for Estero, because the Weeks property is right on the line.”

Planners supported the development, creating a new category of marina zoning in its overall plan. The Coconut Village designation provided a multitude of commercial uses intended to “enhance and protect public use and access to the marina and waterfront areas of Estero Bay”.

In addition to wet and dry boat storage, the project website, WeeksFishCamp.compromised:

“…a well stocked bait and tackle store and a ship store that will have everything you need to store your boat for a day to relax or catch a trophy sized fish. The marina will also include docks for gasoline and diesel, a relaxing beach, maintenance, secure parking, showers and toilets, transient slipways, a kayak and canoe launch and a charter boat fishing.

“Week’s Fish Camp Marina will also include two waterfront bars and restaurants that will feature nightly live entertainment, casual dining, a fun and relaxing atmosphere, banquet facilities and memorable views of the Gulf of Mexico. . Both restaurants will be open 7 days a week with lunch, brunch and dinner.

The city provided the muscle to get the full plan changed the first time around, Nelson said. “This time it will be up to the owner to make a request to change the compensation plan. When someone comes in and says we’re going to close the door to public access, our compensation plan no longer allows it. »

A stopover for paddlers

The new plan includes public access to water.

The drawing submitted with the application shows:

  • A gated entry driveway exiting Coconut Road on the east side of the site, with four towers of 360 multi-family residences.
  • Behind the towers, an open space and a lake.
  • To the west is a private recreation area, leading to the private marina and boat launch, with stunning views of the bay.
  • A small public kayak launch east of the private boat launch. There is also a sunset viewing area and a small public parking lot with spaces for state and local waterway enforcement.
  • Three and a half acres of mangrove wetlands on the northwest side of the property, proposed as a reserve under permanent conservation easement.

The restaurant is no longer part of the plan, or any other commercial use, Thibaut said.

“The plan is definitely not fully developed,” Jennifer Sapen, urban planner at Barraco and Associates, said Monday. Sapen’s company took over the management of the project after the dismissal of the previous project manager.

“The requests are quite vague at the beginning. You have public meetings that get more detailed as the audience gets involved,” she said.

Boats at 30 feet

While the developer still has the ability to offer slides to residents and the public, Weeks Marina is currently labeled private.

“The marina work is largely complete,” said Thibaut. “The slips have not changed; they will be able to accommodate boats up to 30 feet.

At depth, the slides meet the depths of the original marina channel, according to planner Jim Beever, whose agency, the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, reviewed last year’s plans.

“Weeks was a commercial fishing marina used by flatboats. It’s not designed for cabin cruisers,” Beever said.

While Thibaut expects the eligibility process to take six months to a year, he’s “rather confident” the developers are calling the market fair.

“I expect the condominium developments already underway in Bonita Springs to be successful,” he said, “and I think demand will continue, particularly because it’s on the edge some water.”

And after: A report from planning staff on the new weeks permit application is expected to be available next week. Zoning and city council meetings will follow to hear the developer’s requests for setbacks, increased density and land use change in the overall plan.

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