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Fort Myers Yacht Basin residents concerned about being displaced

Posted at 7:24 PM, Apr 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-28 19:30:09-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Fort Myers City Council voted Thursday for a motion that would create a shortlist of bidders that could bring some big changes to the basin-like new restaurants, shops, and floating docks. When they reconvene on May 16th, they will bring the visions of those bidders to the community to get feedback to shape the actual plan that's negotiated with the selected bidder.

Many of the boats on the basin are called liveaboards - meaning that people live on them full time. Some of them have lived on them for two decades, others for just a few months - but many of them told Fox 4 that they were worried about the upcoming developments.

David Duvall has loved on his boat, called "Escape Plan", at the Fort Myers Basin for about a year and a half. He says he's been on the water practically all his life.

“Well, every day is different obviously. In my case, it’s been a lot of doctors appointments and stuff like that - trying to get my back repaired," he says, referencing the five back surgeries that cause him to spend most of his days on the boat.

“It’s a lot of maintenance. I’ve got projects on here that I’ve got to get to. But a lot of them, you’re stooped over, bent down, cause there’s no standing up in a boat," he says.

For him, it's the lifestyle of a liveaboard that was the most appealing - a lifestyle that he found in Fort Myers at a cheap price...a big draw that's getting harder to find.

“If you decide you want to get up and move, check out another area - start the engine and just go. Drive somewhere else. But somewhere else is becoming fewer and farther between," says David, describing the appeal of the lifestyle.

At the other end of the basin, is a similar story for Marcia Schwalm, who's owned and operated a literal floating hair salon in the basin for 14 years.

“It would definitely impact my business. Do I stay here? They’re not giving us leases. So there’s no guarantee that I or any of the residents here are able to stay here in the marina, although they say they want the liveaboards to be here," says Marcia, the owner of "Rumours On the Water" salon.

“There’s an easier way to go where you fix the problems and not do a major fifty million dollar refit. To me, that sounds like a better way to go," says Dave, when asked about the city manager's office's claim that they will ask bidders to not displace the liveaboards.

Marcia had a similar sentiment:

“When I was over there this morning, not many of them are boaters. So do they really care about what happens in the marina or are they just looking at the bottom dollars - what can these new developers put in the pocket of the city?"