The Gilchrist Avenue of 1940
The following is a letter written by Boca Grande resident Bill Regnery to Lee County Commissioner John Manning regarding information provided by his office about parking on Gilchrist Avenue.
Commissioner,Nan Gonzalez from your office was interviewed for an article that appeared in the June 7 issue of the Boca Beacon. She made a number of statements which went beyond her authority and knowledge. As an admittedly biased but, I trust, forthright observer, I pass my reaction on to you.
Ms. Gonzalez was quoted as saying “as of right now, consensus appears to be in support of the ‘Community Plan,’ which is supported by many business owners and the Gilchrist Avenue churches.”
At the May 8 meeting of the Boca Grande Historic Preservation Board the audience was evenly split between the contending groups. The choreographed business interests were held to a draw by the grass-roots neighborhood group.
The design Ms. Gonzalez mentioned was first the Inn Plan, then the Crowninshield Plan and now the egregiously christened Community Plan. But by any name it’s still the same old proposal for a “line to line” parking platform that packs 288 vehicles on the four blocks of the Gilchrist median.
Ms. Gonzales is 100 percent correct in reporting that there is a consensus among the commercial groups but such a conspiracy of self interest is hardly remarkable. And as is often the case the collaborators had better be careful about what they wish for. For instance the guests of the Gasparilla Inn go to considerable effort to reach remote Boca Grande for its style rather than arcade shopping. Start chipping away at the island’s character with mass parking for mass tourism for mass souvenir hawking and the charm fades. Who will be left to browse the upscale boutiques? And as madame’s dance card fills with other destinations there will be fewer gentlemen to slip away for back bay fishing excursions. And if the vacationers come less often how about the home buyers whose numbers have heretofore advanced prices and made life comfy for real estate agents and insurance salesmen? I cannot say that the implementation of the “Inn Plan” will cause us to vacate Gilchrist Avenue but I can confess that when we purchased our lot had we suspected then what is now a possibility we would have located elsewhere.
Ms. Gonzalez goes on to justify revoking the ordinance against angle parking without addressing the safety issues. She rationalizes the need for change because someone from the Department of Transportation at some time in the past made a mistake and erected a sign on the property that by inference seems to permit parking. This was tantamount to a clerical error which, certainly cannot trump legislative intent.
But apart from these and esthetic considerations, which excite more local than countywide enthusiasms there is an economic consequence that has Fort Myers written all over it.The four-block Gilchrist corridor represents some of the highest valued property in the county. It has a taxable base of $65 million and contributes almost $1 million in real estate taxes. It is the conduit to the south island with its 600 parcels and a tax base of more than $1/2 billion. This property produces a revenue stream to the county of $7 million, which is almost 3 percent of the county’s 2012-2013 total real estate tax revenue.
Turn the Gilchrist median into a parking platform and you will not only diminish real estate values on the avenue but downstream. This will be painful for homeowners but also county residents in general. When we discussed the landscaping of the Gilchrist median in your office you mentioned that the Department of Transportation’s special fund for beautification projects was empty because “the county is broke.” Under this dire reality any loss of revenue to the county will work a hardship and especially in the face of four years of reduced rations.
As to the magnitude of a possible Gilchrist real estate swoon and its effect on county revenue I have a proposal from a “forensic appraiser” to conduct a study on the subject. But perhaps the county’s very competent Lee County Appraiser’s office would be a better candidate?
But in the absence of a formal projection you can get a sense of the stakes from a census I took of the people, homes and lots in the Gilchrist Avenue, Boca Bay and Gulf Boulevard neighborhoods. There are about 650 parcels and an in-season population of, say, 2,000. I consulted with residents and a local real estate agent about pricing. I grouped the precincts into 15 categories and applied a unique price to each. I came up with a market value of $0.895 billion, which reduced to “taxable value” of $0.663 billion. At a millage rate of 1.2380 percent these properties contributed $7,838,470 in taxes to the county. This amount constitutes 3.1 percent of the entire Lee County real estate tax revenue.
By comparison The Gasparilla Inn, the Protestant churches, and all of the commercial buildings in the downtown area have a taxable value of $36,733,287 and contribute $454,758 in Lee County real estate taxes.
I consulted into the appraiser’s internet records and analyzed every parcel that was accessed by Gilchrist. Excluding churches and the Inn I counted 39 owners and 43 parcels. I estimated the market value at $140 million. I tabulated the appraiser’s “taxable value” at $64,804,000, which would deliver $802,227 in taxes to the county. So even on its own the Gilchrist corridor has twice the taxable value and delivers to the county twice the revenue flow of all the commercial properties* combined.
And finally and apart from economics I digress to the question of fairness.
Gilchrist stretches four blocks. The Inn’s Beach Club covers one side of the avenue for one block and can lay claim to about 6 percent of the frontage. If compressed into contiguous properties the churches would use about 3/4th of a block and cover about 4 percent of the frontage.
Should a consensus by owners of 10 percent of the property dictate how the frontage of the other 90 percent will be dedicated?
Should a consensus of minority owners be allowed to advance their financial agenda when their gain would harm the economic interests of the majority?
The implementation of the “Inn Plan”:
… will inconvenience up to 2,000 owners and tenants… will aggravate the beach trips of an unknown number of tourists… will show the response time of police, fire and EMS personnel… will make the Gilchrist corridor less safe for motorists, pedestrians and bikers… will adversely impact $663,000,000 in real estate values … will reduce Lee County revenue… will disturb the character and style of Boca Grande
From sheriff to Department of Transportation to appraiser to tax collector to county manager to commissioners most officials in Lee County government have a stake in the Gilchrist median parking question.I trust Ms. Gonzalez’s remarks were not extensions of your sentiments and hope that in the future you rather than she will conduct interviews with themedia on this sensitive subject.
2012-2013 Property Taxes $251,880,070Boca Grande, Taxable Value $1,475,000,000Real Estate Tax Revenue (0.12380%) $18,260,500Boca Grande % Lee County Real Estate Tax Revenue 8.46%
COMMERCIAL PROPERTIES*BOCA GRANDE FIRE DISTRICTTAXABLE VALUE LEE COUNTY2012-13Vacant Commercial $1,604,561Stores One Story $5,249,741Commercial Mixed $5,072,342Comm'n'ty Shop Ctr. $2,035,037 Office, One Story $3,626,009Office Multi Story $1,191,150Restaurants $2,778,566Hotels $12,077,074 Churches $3,098,807Baptist $658,712Episcopal $1,154,522Methodist $1,285,573Total Taxable Value $36,733,287Real Estate Taxes Paid $454,758 Percent Lee County Real Estate Taxes 0.012%Percent Boca Real Estate Taxes 0.250%
HOMES AND LOTSBOCA GRANDE FIRE DISTRICTLEE COUNTY TAXABLE VALUE 2012-2013Gilchrist Avenue/Whiskey Row** $63,150,000Boca Bay**** $356,250,000Gulf Blvd*** $213,750,000Total Taxable Value $633,150,000 Real Estate Taxes $7,838,470
Percent Lee County Real Estate Taxes 3.1%Percent Boca Real Estate Taxes 42.9%
*Excludes Marinas**2012-2013 Taxable Value Lee County Appraiser***Estimate 2012-2013 Taxable Value
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